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Nomenclature

There are several Masonic works, printed or in manuscript, which contain lists of the names of Degrees in Freemasonry. Such a list is called by the French writers a Nomenclature. The word means a system of names or of naming but is capable of an extension much beyond these limits. For instance, Porter ( Human Intellect, page 399) says, "The technical nomenclature of a single science when finished and arranged, is a transcript of all the discriminating thoughts, the careful observations, and the manifold experiments by which science has been formed."

The most important of these nomenclatures pertaining to Freemasonry are those of Peuvret, Fustier, Pyron, and Lemanceau. Pagon has a nomenclature of Degrees in his Tuileur Generale. Thory has an exhaustive and descriptive one in his A cta Latomorum. Oliver also gives a nomenclature, but an imperfect one, of one hundred and fifty Degrees in his Historical Landrnarks. It has been evident for some years past that the subject of Masonic nomenclature is growing in importance to a point where Masonic scholars must make it a specialty. Even now, and with investigations scarcely begun, the clearing up of the original meaning of only five or six terms has occasioned a recasting of a few of the most important pages in the history of the Craft. When Anderson entitled his book in 1723 "Constitutions" he meant not a body of organic, fundamental law but a book of customs and ceremonies; it was not until the last quarter of the Eighteenth Century that the word became a term for the Written Law, and it was the incorporating of one law after another in a book of customs which changed the modern texts of Grand Lodge Constitutions so radically that they have been led far away from Anderson's book. In many Grand Lodge Codes the Book of Constitutions is published separately under the head of "Old Charges."

In the General Regulations adopted in 1721 by the Mother Grand Lodge, brethren are warned that "they must obtain a Grand Master's Warrant to join in forming a new Lodge" by Warrant was meant "permission," to be granted or not by the Grand Master personally, and either the Grand Master or a deputy appointed by him was to be present in person to constitute the Lodge. The first written Warrant (or Charter) as a legal document, as possessing authority in itself, was issued by the Grand Lodge of Ireland in 1755 and by the (Modern) Grand Lodge of England for the first time in 1757.

The word Deputation which now, as applied to a Lodge, means a temporary warrant (in America) granted by a Grand Master to form a Lodge, meant in the early Grand Lodge period a letter from a Grand Master to authorize a brother to act in his place to constitute a Lodge; that is, it was authority granted to a man, not to a body, though usually a Lodge was permitted to keep such a document in its possession.

The term Regular now describes any Lodge which is chartered and is on the list of a recognized and established Grand Lodge, any other body being a clandestine or spurious society; originally "regular" only denoted such early Lodges as had come voluntarily under authority of the Grand Lodge; this did not imply that Lodges which had not done so were spurious or clandestine. The word Degree is now generally held to have been a misnomer, though it is so widely rooted in usage that it probably cannot be changed thus, the First Step should be called not the Degree of Entered Apprentice but the Lodge of Entered Apprentices. The correct name for the old documents is still under discussion; Hughan clung to "Old Charges" because the Mason of earliest record called them that; Gould preferred "Old Manuscripts." Since the Old Catechisms also are Old MSS. the latter name is ambiguous. A correct, unambiguous name awaits discovery.

And the suggestion is here and now made that the familiar "Time Immemorial" should be discontinued The phrase came into usage apparently from Blackstone and naturally denotes something of "which the memory of man runneth not to the contrary," hence a "time immemorial" Lodge would be taken to mean a very old, an almost prehistoric Lodge. It is on record that many "time immemorial" Lodges in Britain before the constitution of the first Grand Lodge in 1717 were only ten to fifty years old at the time; so with the "First Lodge" in Philadelphia. The name "self-constituted Lodge" is recommended to take the place of "time immemorial." Other terms of nomenclature now in the melting pot are dues, jurisdiction, prerogatives, spurious, clandestine, irregular, universality, comity.

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