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Mark of the Craft, Regular

In the Mark Degree there is a certain stone which is said, in the instructions, not to have upon it the regular mark of the Craft. This expression is derived from the following tradition of the Degree. At the building of the Temple, each workman placed his own mark upon his own materials, so that the workmanship of every Freemason might be readily distinguished, and praise or blame be justly awarded. These marks, according to the lectures, consisted of mathematical figures, squares, angles, lines, and perpendiculars, and hence any figure of a different kind, such as a circle, would not be deemed "the Regular Mark of the Craft." Of the three stones used in the Mark Degree, one is inscribed with a square and another with a plumb or perpendicular, because these were marks familiar to the Craft; but the third, which is inscribed with a circle and certain hieroglyphics, was not known and was not, therefore, called regular (see also Marks of the Craft).

Companion Alfred A. A. Murray, submitted a Memorandum in 1919 to the Supreme Grand Royal Arch Chapter of Scotland, which was in part as follows:

A clear statement has frequently been requested as to the exact rules governing the form of Marks. In particular, a prominent Chapter has specially asked to be provided with a definite rule. In consequence the following Memorandum was submitted to Supreme Grand Committee for the purpose of information so that they might consider the subject and, if so advised, give an official ruling on the meaning of the Committee on Marks, and in the interval the Memorandum has been revised and corrected. In Ireland there are no definite rules, and the Marks are accepted just as they are sent in. No attention is paid practically to the matter, and not one Mark Mason in twenty adopts a Mark of any kind. Those who do frequently select designs quite unsuitable for the purpose, such as crests or monograms, but they are all registered in Grand Chapter books without question.

I am informed that by a resolution of the Grand Mark Lodge of England, on 14th December, 1864, the regulation confining Speculative Masons' Marks to any specified number of points was abrogated. But straight lines are imperative.

In America, so far as can be ascertained, there is no rule specifying what should be selected as a Mark, this being left entirely to the candidate himself to determine, The Grand Lodge of Scotland has never, so far as can be ascertained, laid down any rule whatever, and disclaims any responsibility for any ritual on the subject.

The way, therefore, appears to be quite open to this Committee to suggest a definite ruling for themselves and to let others follow it or not as they choose. The instructions as they stand at present substantially consist of a direction that any Mark adopted by a candidate and member must consist of any number of odd points connected by lines, with the exception of one special figure containing three points. The old manuscript copy of the working, in the possession of Supreme Grand Chapter, says, "3, 5, 7, 9 or 11 points joined together to form any figure they please except, etc." It may be interesting to add, in parenthesis, that according to the old independent Yorkshire working early last century, the members present had also to be 3, 5, 7, 9, etc., and the fee was "one mark, Is lHd., neither more nor less."

The theory held by some is that the Mark was, and is still supposed to be, made by the workman with the edge of a chisel, not by its corner point, so that each stroke therefore will make nothing but a straight line. This would apply to the Mark on the blade of the chisel, but I should rather think the Mark cut on a stone would be made by a pointed chisel, and therefore that so far it would be conveniently possible to form a curved figure. As the Mark was reproduced on the hewn stones, it should have been the same as that which was struck on the blade of the Mason's own tools to identify them in the boxes, or when returned from sharpening, or for any other necessary purposes. While the actual wording of the instructions do not expressly say straight lines this is commonly understood to be implied.

The old ritual of Chapter Esk, No. 42, however, expressly says, "straight or curved lines." There may be others giving the same reading. Among the Operative Masons of Scotland for centuries genuine curved Marks are by no means unknown, but are very few. For instance, at Fortress Cathedral out of 265 Marks there is only one with curved lines--representing a vessel. A heart is also an emblem not uncommon. But, on the whole, out of the many thousand specimens from the thirteenth century downwards, it is almost unusual to find a Mark with curved lines. The Speculative Masons are lineal descendants of the Operative Craft, though not the only branch, and theoretically they are subject to the same rules of work and interpretation as the Body from which they sprang.

The first question which arises is as to the regulation about the number of points. This regulation may hold with the present speculative systems, but it has nothing whatever to do with King Solomon's Temple, where not a single Mason's Mark has ever been found. Indeed there are no Mason's Marks on any known historic and ancient Jewish building, or at least if so I am not aware of it. The story about a Mark of approval made by an equilateral triangle and about juxtaposition Marks is apocryphal. The regulation has no sanction or foundation in the practice of the Operative Craft. No system of counting will ever prove that such a rule existed operatively. Numberless specimens prove the contrary.

There used to be a story current in the Craft some thirty years ago that there was a distinction between the Mark of a Fellow of Craft and that of a Master Mason, the former having an even number of points and the latter an odd number. The idea was a fad of some theorists and had no foundation in fact, except that when the agreement between the Grand Lodge of Scotland and the Supreme Grand Chapter of Scotland regarding the Mark Degree was entered into, it evidently ignored the fact that the Stark Man and the Mark Master were two separate Degrees--the former worked after the second Degree and the latter after the third. But the Mark was chosen by the Mark Man, and the indiscriminate use of any number of Points for a Mark, odd or even, is therefore, according to the basis of the theory mentioned, correct. Incidentally. it may be added that the part of our present ritual referring to the infliction of the penalty is incorrectly expressed. It was the Entered Apprentice who suffered. because he had no Mark to present, not the Fellow Craft who presented his own Mark. It is absurd to suppose that he suffered because he used the triangle instead of his proper Mark.

The American ritual I have seen solves this difficulty by making the Mark Master present and withdraw his hand in a different way to that of his workmen. Assuming, however, that the rule according to the ritual is to be observed, a difficulty arises as to what precisely is meant by a point which has to be counted.

The instruction is that the Mark must have a certain number of odd points connected by straight lines. Now every straight line consists of an innumerable number of points. Logically, therefore, the definition means and implies that every point in a straight line is not to be counted solely because it is in that line. Any point to be counted must be Selected for some other reason. Now, according to the definition it is quite clear that the end points of a straight line must be and are intended to be counted because they are the points which are connected by a straight line. It is therefore beyond question that any point which is the beginning, or ending, of one or more straight lines must be a point to be counted according to the rules of the Degree.

The difficulty arises as to the counting when two straight lines intersect, or rather when they not merely intersect but cross one another. In such a case is the point of intersection a point within the meaning of the instructions for the Degree? Varying opinions have for the past half- century been held among Freemasons about this, but the old records rather support the rule that a mere intersection or crossing does not constitutes a point. The point is and must be the end of a line and not merely a part of it in the middle.

In the petition to Lodge Mother Kilwinning in 1677 on which the Warrant to Lodge Canongate Kilwinning was granted, nine out of the twelve petitioners append their Marks. They are all composed of straight lines connected together. If crossings are not counted, there were eight even and one odd. If crossings are counted, there were three even and six odd. one of them was even and had no crossing point. In the first Minute-Book of the Lodge of Edinburgh, if crossings are not counted, about two-thirds of the Marks are odd and the remaining one-third even. If crossings are counted, there is a slight preponderance of odd points. Robert Burns' Mark had eleven points, but if the crossing is counted it had twelve.

In the Mark Book of Chapter Edinburgh for the first fifty years or so, if crossings are not counted, there are thirty-three odd and forty even. If crossings are counted, the same proportion remains. But one hundred and thirty-four out of two hundred and thirty-three Marks transgress the rules that straight lines only must be counted. The use of curved lines has, however, in this case ceased for several decades. As in the case of the Roman Eagle Lodge, when the Mark Degree was intro duced in 1785, a large number of the transgressing Marks are not Marks at all, but representations of Masonic symbols and emblems such as the hive, the irradiated sun, the ladder, the skull and cross-bones, the heart, and so on. There are Jewish and other letters, a hand grasping an arrow, or a sword, or a pen, or a musket. There is a horse vaulting a gate, and a lion passant, a clam shell a stag's head, a man in the moon, a harp, the Volume of the Sacred Law, an irradiated star, and a laurel branch, etc., all drawn illustratively. There are also several Marks with points alone and no lines at all.

There are also instances of, say, a shield with a triangle or a cross, or some entirely separate figure within it Latterly, it is only too common to find puerile attempts to combine initials. To sum up, the main points for decision are:

1. Whether a point--a mere dot--can be counted if it is shown alone and not as part of a line. 2. Whether a point means the end of a separate and distinct line or a free salient angle. 3. Whether the lines must be straight or may be curved. 4. Whether the lines must all be connected or whether they may he disconnected as, for example, a triangle within a shield, or dots or a small or large circle. 5. Whether the points must be odd in number. 6. Whether in this case a crossing point must be counted. 7. Whether in the same ease n crossing point need not be counted unless desired, and, if one is counted, must all in the same figure be counted. 8. Whether the points may be odd or even in number. In this case it is not necessary to trouble about crossing points, because they can make no difference to the ultimate result

As a closing remark it ought to be added that, looking at the number of different Marks required for the large number of members now being admitted, if any mere point of intersection is allowed to be counted it will make it greatly easier to multiply the available number of possible Marks. If such a point of mere intersection is not to be counted and is ruled out, the number of available Marks with a reasonable number of lines will be cut down probably by one-fourth. This is admittedly an argument ad conrenientiam, but in certain eases expedience rises to the height of principle. The rule suggested is simply that ah Marks in future must be composed of straight lines joined together, and the counting of points be discontinued. If this rule be adopted no further question can apparently arise, and the simplicity of the rule is greatly in its favour. It would involve, however, that the ritual should be subject to a slight correction to bring it into conformity with the rule, but this can easily be done.

Further information will be found in Doctor Mackay's revised History of Freemasonry, some sixty-five items being indexed. Many valuable references to the subject are in the Appendix to the Proceedings (Grand Chapter, Royal arch Masons, Michigan, 1920), contributed by Companion Charles A. Conover, General Grand Secretary. Additional references are in a paper read by Professor George Godwin, Royal Institute of British Architects, 1868; four articles by John E. Dove, Builder, London, April 4 and 18, June 6, and July 11, 1863, also a paper on Masonry and Masorls Marks, Brother T. Hayter Lewis, Transactions, Quatuor Coronati Lodge (volume iii, 1890).

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