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This issue of "de-Christianizing" Masonry has not gone away. It crops up from time to time in articles in the AQC and it is really not my business to go into the arguments, save and except to say that by talking about "de-Christianizing" the authors are mis-describing the issue.

The issue is that what the Duke of Sussex did was quite extraordinary not just in terms of Masonic history but more importantly in terms of English history at that time. By insisting that Masonry be completely inclusive, he was out of step with the body politic in England. It is understandable why there were revolts against the Duke of Sussex over this issue of "de-Christianizing" because those who were opposing the Duke were reflecting their society at large, in the specific context of Masonry. We take for granted that the ideals of Freemasonry were accepted by everyone; this is not correct. We assume because so much of the American Declaration of Independence and so many other parts of early American history (the New Secular Order) are related to Masonic ideals, that these ideas were current in England. This is not correct. I don't wish to give a full-blown course on 19th Century English politics but for those who are interested I'll give one recent reference, Poisoning The Minds Of The Lower Orders by Don Herzog, Princeton University Press, 1998. Also, it took three separate Reform Acts of 1832, 1867 and 1884 to allow every man in England to have the vote.

Up until 1854, unless you were an Anglican, it was almost impossible to attend either Cambridge or Oxford and it wasn't until 1871 that legislation was passed making all offices, and professorships at Cambridge, Oxford, and Durham (except for certain clerical and theological positions) open to anyone who was not an Anglican. We forget that religious tensions in England and the social tensions and the class tensions were not as we would perceive it now being as between Christians and Jews and Muslims, but rather between Anglicans, Non-Conformists, Methodists, and everyone else including Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Jews, Muslims, &c. I am spending some time on this point because secularizing the message of Masonry and focusing on universal and fundamental beliefs of Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth didn't make the Craftsman any less Christian. To do so would have been to have them change their skins. No one wanted to do that, in fact, our opening Ode is taken right from the Anglican Hymnal. There is no concern as to where the Hymn came from, after all it was well known to the Craftsmen and the message is perfectly Masonic. It is no wonder that when the Chaplain is installed he is charged with the obligation of promoting tolerance.

Something else that came out of the Lodge of Reconciliation, and I am getting ahead of myself but this is as good a time as any to bring it up, is the clear fact that there was never an authorized ritual. In fact, the first query that came up to the Grand Lodge after the Lodge of Reconciliation had finished its work was whether or not the Emulation ritual was the correct work as compared to the Stability work, and the Duke of Sussex as the Grand Master was not even interested in entertaining the question. In England, as long as the Ritual includes all the landmarks agreed upon and worked at the Lodge of Reconciliation, whatever Ritual that is used is acceptable. Emulation became one of the best known rituals because it was the first one which had an unauthorized version of its Ritual published.

As for the history of Tracing Boards, there are a number of strands of Masonic history and Ritual all tied together, and I'll deal with them in turn. This analysis I am giving follows the example of the two articles in AQC, the first being "The Evolution and Development of the Lodge or Tracing Board" by E.H. Dring in AQC 29 (1916), and the second being "Tracing Boards–Their Development and Their Designers" by T.O. Haunch in AQC 75 (1962). The Dring article is absolutely marvelous and covers a tremendous amount of territory as he set out to recapture what was, even in 1916, being lost. He tried to photograph every Tracing Board he could find still in existence, and to explain where they came from and how they fit into the history of Masonic Ritual. I certainly could never hope to duplicate the quality of his research or of his insights. The second article by Haunch was meant to be a short talk to be given in Lodges, and it is a first rate overview of the topic. Where my analysis may differ is that there are certain points I believe both English authors took for granted that we cannot take for granted and must analyze. Of course, whatever I write is completely my responsibility.

The issues that are tied into the history of Tracing Boards involve many of the major Masonic research problems, such as confusion over language, change over language over a length of time, the history of Lodge halls, the history of Masonic Rituals, and the history of Masonic symbolism. All of this has to be touched on, otherwise the history of Tracing Boards is taken so far out of context that it doesn't lead to any worthwhile discussion.

The best example I can give of this is the following quote from the First Degree lecture given while the candidate is looking at, or being directed to look at, the First Degree Tracing Board in the Canadian work: "The immovable jewels are the Tracing Board, the Rough Ashlar, and the Perfect Ashlar. The Tracing Board is for the Worshipful Master to lay lines and draw designs on." Interestingly enough, the Tracing Board being referred to in that quote is not the Tracing Board that the Entered Apprentice is looking at–it is in fact a blank slate, or a blank piece of paper, that the Worshipful Master will draw on to show some architectural or geometrical model which is the basis of the moral lesson.