Saturday, June 07, 2008

Constitutions of 1723


It is known position that each Grand Lodge is independent and sovereign therefore, does not recognized any "higher" Masonic Bodies such as Supreme Councils. The United Grand Lodge of England (UGLofE) does not nor claimed to be the "superior" Grand Lodge of all Freemasonic Grand Lodges. The UGLofE is bound to its principle of not to join and "has refused and will continue to refuse, to participate in Conferences with so-called International Associations claiming to represent Freemasonry...”

The often referenced Anderson’s Constitutions of 1723 has been replaced and updated since, starting with original Constitutions of 1815 when competing Grand Lodges became the United Grand Lodge of England. The latest edition of UGLofE’s Constitution can be accessed in their website. The front matter listed the years and number of revisions of the document which showed that it was edited and published thirty-five times of which 2007 was the latest. Among the addition from Anderson's work is the Aims and Relationships of the Craft which was accepted in 1949.

Furthermore, the Constitutions of 2007 provided eight (8) conditions relative to the Basic Principles For Grand Lodge Recognition which was accepted in 1924. The first principle stated, ”Regularity of origin; i.e. each Grand Lodge shall have been established lawfully by a duly recognized Grand Lodge or by three or more regularly constituted Lodges." Unlike the recent "Grand Lodge of All England" which was formed by individual Masons, the Independent Grand Lodge of Philippine Islands (IGPLI) was established "by three or more regularly constituted Lodges."

The current "General Laws and Regulations" is still in page 1 of the Constitutions. The "sovereign jurisdiction" discussed in 2007 edition refers to Lodges undisputed authority over the EA, FC and MM Degrees and not about geographical territory.

To quote, use or treat Constitutions of 1723 as a reference for contemporary Masonic legal application has some basic flaws. One, it was superceded and two, it was applicable only to Grand Lodge of England BEFORE the Union of 1813. And three, unless adopted by verbatim by using Grand Lodge, the document does not have legal authority beyond those under its own jurisdiction. The point is that the so-called Modern’s Constitutions of 1723 is a nice reference but should not be taken literally as it was way long been replaced by its intended user--- the Premier Grand Lodge of England. Though the Masonic credentials or lack thereof of Rev. James Anderson is a subject by itself, his work gave the Craft a framework for subsequent editions of Constitutions of United Grand Lodge of England and other Grand Lodges.

Photo credit:
Anderson's Constitution of 1723 from Grand Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon website.


A Dissenting View
by John L. Cooper III

I would like to offer a dissenting view on this subject. The Constitutions of 1723 has greater importance in Freemasonry than any of its successors, either for the Grand Lodge of England, the United Grand Lodge of England, or any other grand lodges which came into existence since then. It was a radical statement of enlightenment philosophy in Masonic terms, particularly Article I – “Concerning God and Religion”. Later revisions by the Grand Lodge of England (1738), et seq., were more conservative statements of the original, probably occasioned by criticism from the church on the “deistic” implications of the original. While the Grand Lodge of England had the authority to change its constitution, and while other grand lodges have the right to establish their own constitutions, to the extent that they move away from the original, to that extent have the abandoned a radical commitment made at the very beginning of speculative Freemasonry.

There is a certain similarity to the Constitution of the United States. While it has been amended over the years, the majestic commitment to the kind of society it envisioned has remained the hallmark of American society. The original has inspired not only amendments in fulfillment of the original, but court interpretations over the years since 1787 have embedded the meaning and inspiration of the original in our form of government. In a similar fashion, Article I of the Constitutions of 1723 sets the standard for future development. That’s why Freemasonry that is restricted to a particular religion (the Swedish Rite, for example) is suspect as to its regularity, although we have reluctantly come to accept that rite as legitimate – as long as it doesn’t become the majority position of all of Freemasonry.

The Constitutions of 1723 deserves our respect, if not our slavish devotion. Certainly there are parts that have, and should have, been changed. The “physical disqualification” in the original deserves to have been consigned to the dustbin of history. But as a symbol of Freemasonry as an expression of the Enlightenment, it is unsurpassed by any of its successors.


*** Posted with permission from John Cooper III, Past Grand Secretary, GLofCA. An excellent article and a different view coming from his perpective. Though I am seeing the document through different prism, I am glad that my conclusion is in-line with his opinion. Thank you for taking time reading my ramblings and imparting your thought. /rmo12Jun08.

No comments: