Eight More Questions From  One Hundred 

One Questions About Freemasonry

1.    What is the Regius Poem? (MSANA Question # 7)
2.    What are the "Old Charges?" (MSANA Question # 6)
3.   Freemasonry is said to be a beautiful system of morality, veiled in allegory, and illustrated by symbols.  What is an allegory? (MSANA Question #14 )
4.   Why is a Master addressed as Worshipful? (MSANA Question # 49)
5.   Why are Square and Compasses more important than other working tools? (MSANA Question # 39)
6.   Why are Masonic Rituals not the same in all States? (MSANA Question # 25)
7.   Why do Masons wear aprons? (MSANA Question # 17)
8.   What are "A Master's Wages?" (MSANA Question # 13)
What is the Regius Poem?

Sometimes called the Halliwell Document, it is, loosely speaking, the oldest of the "manuscript Constitutions" of Freemasonry.  Dated approximately A.D. 1390, it is in old Chaucerian English, difficult to read without a translation.  It is preserved in the British Museum.

It is not, accurately speaking, a "Constitution," although it has within it much that is found in manuscripts.  It is more a document about Masonry than for Masons.  It is discursive, rambling, wordy and parts of it are copies of contemporary documents, notably "Urbanitatis" and "Instructions to a Parish Priest."  Within the poem, thirty-eight lines are devoted to "The Four Crowned Martyrs," 

who are not referred to in any of the manuscript Constitutions.

The book is approximately four by five and one half inches, the pages fine vellum, the letters in red and what was probably once black,  but is now a rather drab greenish brown color.

Its most curious feature is that it is written in verse, which is why it is often called the Regius Poem, although it is much more doggerel than poetry.

It is important to Masonic students for many reasons; to the average Mason, its most salient feature may be that it ends with what are, so far as is known, the oldest words in the Masonic ritual..."So Mote it Be." 

What are the "Old Charges?" 

The first book of Freemasonry, printed in 1723, is known as Anderson's Constitutions.  In it appear six "Old Charges" which are a statement of the old laws of operative Freemasonry concerning a Mason and his conduct.  These six Old Charges are titled: Of God and Religion; Of the Civil Magistrate Supreme and Subordinate; Of Lodges; of Masters, Wardens, Fellows and Apprentices; Of the Management of the Craft in Working; Of Behavior.  The last, sixth Old Charge is

 concerned with behavior "in the Lodge while constituted; after Lodge is over and the Brethren not gone; when Brethren meet without Strangers not Masons; at Home and in the Neighborhood; and towards a strange Brother."

Many "Books of the Law" - Constitutions, Codes, etc. - of Grand Lodges print these Old Charges.  They can also be found in Mackey's Encyclopedia and in the Little Masonic Library.

Freemasonry is said to be a beautiful system of morality, veiled in allegory, and illustrated by symbols.  What is an Allegory?

Allegory is from two Greek words and means "story within a story" - the Masonic story is told as a fact, but it represents the doctrine of immortality.  Allegory, parable, fable, myth, legend, tradition, are correlative terms.  The myth may be founded on fact; but the allegory, parable, fable, are not.  Yet they may be "true" if "true" is not taken to mean factual.  "In the night of death hope sees a star and love can hear the rustle of a wing" is beautifully true allegory, but not factual.  All Allegories may contain truth, without being fact.

The allegory of the Master's Degree is not true in any factual sense, except in historical background from the Biblical account of the building of the Temple.  That the Hirams were Grand Masters; that the workmen on the building were Entered Apprentices,  Fellowcrafts 

and Master Masons; that they met in various apartments of the Temple, with different numbers required for quorum; that the events delineated in the ceremony actually happened are not factual statements.

Yet the allegory is true in the best sense of the word.  For the story of Hiram is the story of the dearest hope of mankind.  It is a tale told in every religion.  It is affirmation, by picture, drama, story, of man's rugged faith that Job's immortal question, "If a man die, shall he live again?" must be answered in the affirmative.  It is a Mason's observation that truth, slain by error, will be born again; it is the crucifixion and the resurrection of the Carpenter who died between two thieves.  The Masonic allegory is true in the deepest sense of truth.

Why is a Master addressed as Worshipful?

Few Masonic matters are less understood by the non-Masonic public than this.  The word "worchyppe" or "worchyp" is Old English and means "greatly respected."  In the Wycliffe Bible "Honor they father and thy mother" appears as "Worchyp thy fadir and thy modir."  English and Canadian mayors are still addressed ad "Your Worship."  In some of the Old Constitutions of Masonry is the phrase "Every Mason shall prefer  his elder


 and put him to worship."

"Worshipful," therefore in modern Masonry continues an ancient word meaning "greatly respected."  A Grand Master is "Most Worshipful," that is "Most greatly respected" (except in Pennsylvania, where the Grand Master is "Right Worshipful," as are Pennsylvania's and Texas' Past Grand Masters.)



Why are Square and Compasses more important than other working tools?

Without compasses no accurate square can be made: without a square no building can be erected.  Square and compasses are universally the symbol of a Master Mason; of Freemasonry.  Symbolists have read many meanings into both these tools of a Mason.  Both symbols are much older than Freemasonry; Chinese manuscripts give them a Masonic significance (although there was no Freemasonry in that country) two thousand years ago.  No symbols in Freemasonry offer so many possible different interpretations.  But many symbols mean different things to different men; each interprets according to his best light.


In modern Masonic rituals, the compasses are "dedicated to the Craft" and are emblematic of the restraint of violent passions.  Here "passions" refers to any over-emotional lack of control.  It is passions in the larger sense; intemperance, temper, unjust judgment, intolerance, selfishness, that the spiritual compasses circumscribe.  The positions of the square and compasses in the three degrees are universal symbols of light, further light, more light.  (Compasses becomes compass in six United States Grand Lodges.)



Why are Masonic Rituals not the same in all States?

Freemasonry came to the United States from several different sources (England, Ireland, Scotland) and in its spread westward formed Grand Lodges from lodges which sprang from the thirteen original colonies.  These admixtures of rituals produced variations which were occasionally increased by actions of Grand Lectures and Ritual Committees.  In the early days of Freemasonry in the United States many 


"traveling lecturers" brought their own conceptions of "the true Masonic work" to far areas and taught these.

All rituals are "correct."  What a Grand Lodge approves as its ritual is "correct" for its lodges.  No rituals in the United States contradict each other; they vary in words and details, not in essentials.

Why do Masons wear aprons?  

The use of the Apron is extremely old, not, as with the operative Masons, as a protector of clothing and body against tools and stone, but as a badge of honor.  It was used by the priests of Israel, by candidates for the mysteries of Mithras in Persia, by the ancient Japanese in religious worship.  Ethiopia knew aprons as did Egypt.  In all times and climes, it has been a badge of distinction.  It is as such that a Mason wears it.



The material of the Masonic apron - lambskin-  is a symbol of innocence, as the lamb has always been.

Color and material are important in its symbolism but Masonry admits the "symbol of the symbol" - as for instance, an electric light in place of a candle.  Hence a Mason has more than once been "properly clothed" when the lambskin aprons of the lodge were all in use and he came through the tiled door clad in a white handkerchief! 

What are "A Master's Wages?"  

According to ritual, corn, wine and oil are the symbolic payment a Freemason earns today by "good work, true work, square work."  "A Master's Wages" may be the same, may be different, for every brother.  They are the friendships formed through Freemasonry; the consciousness of unselfish work; taking part in the movements and  actions for the betterment of the condition of neighbors; inherent in learning and in making it possible for other men to learn that men of widely different beliefs, convictions,  circumstances,


 education, skills and character may live and work, play and love together in peace and happiness.  A Master's Wages are intangible, but the more real because any brother may earn as much as he will.

"I worked for menial wages
Only to learn, dismayed,
Any wage I asked of lodge,
Lodge would have paid."

This is a paraphrase indicating that there is no limit to the Master's Wages any Brother may receive, except that which he may put upon himself.