by Hugh Cole

We introduce "The Inquisitive Apprentice," by Hugh Cole. This imaginary character has an insatiable curiosity and seeks answers to our rich fraternal heritage. As your proxy, he sends us scurrying through the annals in the archives, searching for responses and explanations. Is he John Paul Jones, John Q. Public or John Allen Doe, frequently-mentioned at lodge? Perhaps! The Inquisitive Apprentice plagues the ritual coach, or poster, with digressing on extraneous tangents. He has the knack of posing strange and perplexing questions. We've all done so on occasion! LASTING IMPRESSIONS

"Why do we go through such unusual procedures to join the Masons? What is the purpose of it?" the Inquisitive Apprentice asks. Evidently those recommending his petition merely conveyed that it was an experience he would enjoy and that he might become acquainted with admirable men of his community! True, but that doesn't begin to answer the question! William Preston expressed it suggesting, "Masonry is a progressive moral science, divided into different degrees; and as its principles and mystic ceremonies are regularly developed and illustrated, it is intended and hoped that they will make a deep and lasting impression upon the mind."

It was also Preston's admonition, "It is hoped and expected that you will apply yourself to the study of Masonry as Entered Apprentices served their Masters in ancient times."

These philosophical gems date back to English Masonry in 1772 when William Preston published "Illustrations of Masonry." Preston's curiosity was aroused by the transition from an operative stonemason's vocation into the speculative fraternity that emerged. lie questioned those who experienced and remembered the transition. He examine documents, surviving from antiquity, which alluded to a rich philosophy perpetuated by the cathedral builders.

Preston composed a lecture imparting the philosophical lesson of the Fellowcraft degree. lie recited this lecture in lodge where it became instantly popular and received the approval of Grand Officers. Preston's lectures were never officially adopted as ritual though recited as a custom for the edification of candidates. Preston published a book of lectures that his students might use them to memorize his lectures. Once a student was proficient he was examined and the book was returned. With Preston's permission the students were permitted to recite in lodge. Preston may be regarded as an early ritualist and "Grand Lecturer!"

In 1813 the "Ancient" and "Modern" Grand Lodges merged into the United Grand Lodge of England. Much of Preston's work failed to survive the compromising of ritual differences in the merger. Of several existing English rituals, today, the Emulation Ritual seems to predominate in lodges in and around London.

England's noted scholar, Harry Carr, visited Illinois in the 1970s and requested to attend the conferring of an Apprentice or Fellowcraft degree! Brother Carr remarked he thought it fortunate that Preston's eloquence survives in the Standard Work of Illinois and some other North American jurisdictions! Carr was particularly impressed by a demonstration of Illinois rod-work (the rod is called a "wand" in England.) The event was a school in ritual and floor work conducted by the Board of Grand Examiners at the Westmont Masonic Temple. Masonic friends in Birmingham, England related that Carr subsequently spoke to them of Illinois "rod work."

The Medieval cathedral-builders progressed slowly (the nature of their work,) deliberately (errors were dangerous and costly,) and proficiently (only the best was such as worthy for the building of a cathedral.) Our fraternity is largely patterned after customs and procedures of the cathedral builders. So, we endeavor in a similar manner to shape ourselves as living stones for that spiritual building- worthy of the very best we are capable of exerting!

(You may wish to write a note containing your thoughts, comments, questions and additional information. Mail it in care of Randall W. Becker, 320, M.S.A., Editor of the Scottish Rite News. The address is; Scottish Rite Cathedral, 915 N. Dearborn St., Chicago, Ill. 60610 or  Greg Klemm, the Valley Secretary, or Harry Strouse Thank you for sharing!)

Return to the"Trestle"