Meekeren and Bress.
Bro. R. J. Meekren, Stanstead, Quebec, and A. L. Kress, McKeesport, Pa., contributed to The Builder, of which Bro. Meekren was editor at the time, a series of articles between May, 1928 and October, 1929 in which they developed sith skill and thoroughness a theory of the Ritual which they have a right to call their own, and which has been receiving a sympathetic consideration by Masonic scholars.
The theory cannot be bracketed or labeled because it stands in a unique position. It is concerned largely with the Third Degree, and more particularly with the Legend of HA.-. On the one side they refuse to agree with the more timid investigators that the Third Degree was concocted out of nothing, or next to nothing ("the Mason Word," etc.), after 1725, by the "new men" who had come into the Craft, and who, as old Minutes so abundantly show, knew very little about Freema60nry's past; and they refuse partly because they do not believe that the old Lodges in control of the Grand Lodge would have accepted any artificially constructed novelty into the structure of the Ritual, and partly because the internal evidence of the Third Degree indicates that it is at least in substance far older than the Eighteenth Century.
On the other side, they refuse to agree with the extremists of the so-called "anthropologic school" (Ward, Cock burn, etc.) that our ceremonies ever were handed over to us by African savages, or any other savages. They believe however, and in so believing have the backing of the whole science of anthropology, that there are in modern civilization some "culture survivals"; that these originated, many of them, in ancient times, and that they have persisted because for generation after generation men have found in them something worth preserving.
In their articles they carry out a series of studies of such rites and symbols as Form of the Lodge, the Precious Jewels, HA.-. etc., in the light of their being possible culture survivals, and in 60 doing bring to them a fresh interpretation, and extract from them new meanings, and as always, when that is done, receiving grateful thanks from other students. Their interpretation is being criticized at two points. First, have they not narrowed too much the scope of Medieval architecture, ignoring the fact that it was a world in itself in which the construction and engineering of buildings was only a part, and in which there was in every period a rich, interior culture? If they have, they have weakened their argument for carrying back the origin of the (admittedly) oldest stratum of Masonic rites and symbols to ages preceding Medieval architecture.
Second, and on the contrary, they could in part strengthen their theory if it could be shown, as is possible, that the whole use of the ideas of Degrees, or separately organized ceremonies, has no meaning prior to about 1600. It is reasonable to think that Operative Masons had not fewer ceremonies (rites, symbols) than Speculative, but had more; but that they used them here and there, now and then, for many purposes, and were never concerned to organize them into independent Degrees. If this is true the problem of HA.-. can be detached from any problem about the Third Degree (as a Degree) for it is possible that it is one of many ceremonies, or rites, or symbolic actions of which there were probably a large number in the earliest Medieval Masonry.
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