Education has always been closely linked with Masonry, and is still a very important part of it. In fact, Masonry and education cannot be separated, one from the other!
That the history of Masonry goes back into ‘time immemorial’ is a well known fact, and often discussed. Our ancient Brethren were members of a craft guild (masons’ guild) or trade union. They were builders of temples, cathedrals and government buildings. Because of their knowledge and skills, they enjoyed an enviable position in the society of their time. They were paid much more than most workers, could travel freely from one country to another, and were educated within their guild. All this when most common men of their day were in serfdom, and could not even leave the lord’s estate without his permission.
In order to practice their trade, it was necessary for these men to learn the mathematical sciences, as well as the liberal arts, which was needed in order to communicate during working hours so that each workman understood clearly what he was to do.
At this early stage of history, there were not many opportunities for education outside the guild. There were very few schools of even elementary achievement, much less institutions of higher learning.
Since our ancient Brethren had all this in place, and were doing so very well for themselves, they felt the need to establish an extensive and strict moral code in order that no dishonor be brought to the organization by any of its members.
The practices just described, attracted many good men to the craft who were not practicing or operative” masons. These men became the .accepted’ members of the order, and that phrase still is a vital part of our name. If the practice were still in existence today, we would call them “honorary” or “associate’ members.
By the end of the Renaissance period, or about 1700, the cathedral building era was over, and without this source of work, the guild was in jeopardy. Also by this time, there were more accepted members than there were operative members. In order to save the institution and preserve the moral values it had taught, a change was necessary.
On St. John’s day, June 24, 1717 four old Lodges met in London and formed the first Grand Lodge the world has ever known, and this was the beginning of Masonry as it is now known and practiced the world over.
Masonry had evolved into a moral institution, and was no longer a craft guild. Under these new circumstances, the Lodge has essentially but one thing to offer, and that is education. The purpose of Masonry became to unite together groups of good men and to speculate on the moral teachings of Freemasonry. The fellowship, brotherhood and genuine affection among the members is a natural result of this close association and mutual interest. Over the years, the system has evolved and been refined, but has not essentially changed.
My Brethren, I submit that education is the root of Masonry, and if we can educate and involve the candidate with enthusiasm, we can solve many of our problems and benefit our beloved Fraternity.
George Clifford Ladman
Royal Arch Mason Spring 1999