In 1717 Freemasonry enters properly into history. Four London Lodges alone formed Grand Lodge and owed allegiance to it. What is interesting is that a none-too-well-off gentleman, Anthony Sayer, was installed as Grand Master. The upper classes kept a low profile. They backed the creation of a central organization welding individual Lodges together, but evidently wanted this done before they assumed control. Of the four original London Lodges, the first three contained not one 'Esquire' between them, whereas Lodge Original No 4 was made up of seventy-one members of whom, in 1724, ten were nobles, three were honourable, four were baronets or knights, and two were generals.
In 1718 Sayer was replaced after barely a year by George Payne, a 'man of more substance', being a member of Original No 4. But he too had only one year in office -another interim while the upper classes moved in on the small gentry just as the small gentry had moved in on the 'operative' artisans a century earlier.
The third Grand Master was the Reverend John Theophilus Desaguliers, a Doctor of Law, a Fellow of the Royal Society and chaplain to Frederick, Prince of Wales, whom he admitted to the Brotherhood in 1737. He was of French extraction. A headhunter for Freemasonry, he not only visited Edinburgh to encourage the Scots along the organizational path the London Masons were following, but visited The Hague in 1731, where he admitted the Duke of Lorraine to the Brotherhood. The Duke married Maria Theresa in 1736 and become co-Regent when she acceded to the Austrian throne in 1740. How far the Duke contributed to the masonic heyday under Joseph II when Mozart, Haydn and a host of other notables were Freemasons is not known. But the cosmopolitan Dr Desaguliers certainly appears to have sparked the missionary zeal of British Freemasonry which eventually carried the movement to almost every country in the world.
Desaguliers too only held office a short time. In 1721 he gave way to the long awaited first noble Grand Master, the Duke of Montague. But, unlike his predecessors, Desaguliers was not usurped: the evidence suggests that he was the prototype of the long line of powerful masonic figures who preferred the shade to the limelight, the reality of power to mere appearances.
By 1730 when the Roman Catholic Duke of Norfolk was installed (prior to the first papal condemnation of Freemasonry in 1738), there had been nine Grand Masters, six of them nobles. The first royal Grand Master was the Duke of Cumberland, grandson of George II, who was installed in 1782, with an Acting Grand Master, the Earl of Effingham, as his proxy. In 1787 both the Prince of Wales (the future George IV) and his brother William (the future William IV) were initiated. The patronage by the Royal Family of the new secret society was thenceforth assured. Queen Elizabeth II is the present Grand Patroness.
But all the while the royals were being courted to become titular leaders of Masonry, the process of transformation of the old masons' guild continued. The Brotherhood was de-Christianized and the rituals of the various workings became formalized. Throughout the eighteenth century more and more pagan elements were brought in to replace the discarded faith.
The de-Christianization was largely accomplished by the Constitutions of Dr James Anderson, a Scottish Freemason who became a member of Original Lodge No 4. Anderson, a genealogist and a far from accurate historian, appears to have been put up to the task of settling the new form of the Craft by Dr Desaguliers who in 1723 presented the first version (there was a second version in 1738) to Grand Master the Duke of Montague when he, Desaguliers, had discreetly retired to the second position, that of Deputy Grand Master.
In Anderson's constitution listing the new 'Charges of a Free-Mason', the first is the most striking and had the most far-reaching consequences. It stated: "Tis now thought more expedient only to oblige them [members of the Brotherhood] to that Religion to which all men agree, leaving their particular opinions to themselves.'
Anderson, in a long and fanciful historical preamble tracing Freemasonry back to Adam and quite unwarrantably naming many previous English monarchs as Masons, seeks to reconcile this radical departure with the spirit and tradition of the old guild by announcing, without any historical justification, that in ancient days masons had been charged in every country to be of the religion of that country where they worked - this despite the fact that virtually all the extant Old Charges were quite explicit in their Christianity.
The only reference to Christ is in Anderson's preamble when, referring to the Roman Emperor Augustus, he notes 'in whose Reign was born God's Messiah, the great Architect of the Church'. In 1815 even this historical preamble was omitted from theConstitutions following the Union of the 'Antients' and the 'Moderns', described later, and during the years between 1723 and 1813 the invocation of the name of Christ in the endings of prayers gradually died out. In masonic quotations of scripture (e.g. 1 Peter ii 5; 2 Thess. iii 2; 2 Thess. iii 13) the name of Christ came to be deleted from the text. So, to Christians, the apostasy became complete. Masonry became vaguely Voltarian Deist, the 'Great Architect of the Universe' came to be invoked, and prayers ended with 'so mote it be'.
After so much activity a period of comparative neglect now followed during which the politican and litterateur Horace Walpole, himself a Mason, wrote in 1743: 'the Freemasons are in . .. low repute now in England ... I believe nothing but a persecution could bring them into vogue again'.
There was ribaldry and mockery, and Hogarth, also a Mason, joined in making fun in his engravings of the self-indulging, self-important image the Brotherhood had earned itself. There was no persecution. Instead there was schism, partly in reaction to the de-Christianization of the Craft and other changes in its practice. Masons calling themselves 'the Antients', who had not formed part of the Grand Lodge of 1717, created in 1751 a rival Grand Lodge, also manned by aristocrats, which stood for the link with Christianity and certain other aspects of the old tradition which the 'Moderns', loyal to the 1717 Grand Lodge, had tampered with. The two Grand Lodges vied with each other to recruit provincial Lodges. To complicate matters there were also what the great masonic historian, J. Heron Lepper called the 'Traditioners' who, while remaining under the jurisdiction of the London 'Modern' Grand Lodge, nevertheless did not follow its lead entirely.
There was another, later to prove most important, bone of contention between the Antients and the Moderns - the position of a masonic degree and associated working termed the Holy Royal Arch. This time it was the Modernr who objected to something new: some of the Antients had instituted this 'fourth degree', one of the first mentions of which is in 1746 when a prominent Irish Antient was 'exalted' to it. The Moderns claimed that this was a departure from unalterable tradition because the old craft, like other guild crafts, had known only a hierarchy of three degrees - Apprentice, Journeyman or Fellow, and Master Craftsman. Despite the Moderns' objections, the Royal Arch ritual grew steadily in popularity. Perhaps the turning point in the dispute came as a result of Thomas Dunckerley, a natural son of George II, a keen Mason and a Traditioner among the Moderns, coming out as an enthusiast for Royal Arch, to which he was exalted - as Masons term initiation to the Royal Arch - according to his own report in 1754. Dunckerley looms large in masonic history and other prominent Moderns soon came to share his enthusiasm.
Eventually, in 1813, tired of their long quarrel, Antients and Moderns were reconciled, the Duke of Kent, Grand Master of the Antients, giving way to the Duke of Sussex, Grand Master of the Moderns, who thus became the first Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England. The Moderns gave way on Royal Arch, saving face by having it declared that this was no fourth degree but simply a culmination of the other three degrees, which completed the making of a Master Mason. The Antients for their part gave way to the Moderns in accepting the total de-Christianization of the Brotherhood.
The Union's acceptance of Royal Arch workings is of great importance, for it completed in all essentials the structure of Freemasonry as it exists today. Just as the Moderns de-Christianized the movement, so with the acceptance of Royal Arch the Antients succeeded in introducing the undeniably occult - notably the invocation of the supposedly rediscovered long-lost name of God, discussed later in this book.
It is perhaps because the Freemasonic God, as revealed to Royal Arch Masons, is so far from being 'that Religion to which all men agree' that it was determined that Holy Royal Arch workings should not be conducted in Lodges but separately in 'Chapters' under the control of a Grand Chapter and not of Grand Lodge. In practice, the officers of Grand Lodge and of Grand Chapter overlap and today both bodies have their seat at Freemasons Hall in Great Queen Street, Holborn. Moreover, Chapters usually meet in the Lodge temples to which they are attached, albeit on different evenings. Today about one in five Freemasons are Royal Arch 'Companions', these constituting a more fervent, more indoctrinated, closer-knit inner circle. With the acceptance of Royal Arch, the way was open for the conferment of the bewildering mass of further and even more exclusive degrees that now characterizes world Freemasonry.
During the period from the beginning of the seventeenth century to the time of the Union of Antients and Moderns in 1813, the rituals crystallized and came to approximate each other, although to this day there are a large number of somewhat different workings. The main rituals settled around the legend of King Solomon's temple. The myth mimed in the Master Mason's degree is the murder of Hiram Abiff, claimed to have been the principal architect of the temple, for refusing to reveal masonic secrets. The would-be Master Mason has to 'die' as Hiram Abiff and be 'resurrected' into Masonry. According to the myth mimed in the Royal Arch ceremony, a crypt is found in the foundations of the ruined temple in which is discovered the 'omnific word', the lost name of God. With the rituals, the oaths too became settled in the form they have today. Should he reveal the secrets of the Brotherhood, the Apprentice accepts, among other penalties, to have his tongue torn out; the Fellow Craft to have his heart torn from his breast; the Master Mason to have his bowels burned to ashes; and the exaltee to the Royal Arch accepts 'in addition' to have the top of his skull sliced off. But, as the rituals themselves express it, the 'more effective penalty' for doing anything displeasing to Masonry is to be shunned by the entire Brotherhood, a penalty adequate to bring a man to ruin, the more certainly so as Freemasonry expanded in every profession and every branch of society.