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Mark Master

The Fourth Degree of the American Rite. The traditions of the Degree make it of great historical importance, since by them we are informed that by its influence each Operative Mason at the building of the Temple was known and distinguished, and the disorder and confusion which might otherwise have attended so immense an undertaking was completely prevented. Not less useful is it in its symbolic signification. As illustrative of the Fellow Craft, the Fourth Degree is particularly directed to the inculcation of order, regularity, and discipline. It teaches us that we should discharge all the duties of our several stations with precision and punctuality; that the work of our hands and the thoughts of our hearts should be good and true not unfinished and imperfect, not sinful and defective but such as the Great Overseer and Judge of heaven and earth will see fit to approve as a worthy oblation from his creatures.

If the Fellow Craft's Degree is devoted to the inculcation of learning, that of the Mark Master is intended to instruct us how that learning can most usefully and judiciously be employed for our own honor and the profit of others. And it holds forth to the desponding the encouraging thought that although our motives may sometimes be misinterpreted by our erring fellow mortals, our attainments be underrated, and our reputations be traduced by the envious and malicious, there is one, at least, who sees not with the eyes of man, but may yet make that stone which the builders rejected, the head of the corner. The intimate connection then, between the Second and Fourth Degrees of Freemasonry, is this, that while one inculcates the necessary exercise of all the duties of life, the other teaches the importance of performing them with systematic regularity. The true Mark Master is a type of that man mentioned in the sacred parable, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord" (Matthew xxv, 21).

In America, the Mark Master's is the first Degree given in a Royal Arch Chapter. Its officers are a Right Worshipful Master, Senior and Junior Wardens, Secretary, Treasurer, Senior and Junior Deacons, Master, Senior and Junior Overseers The Degree cannot be conferred when less than six are present, who, in that case, must be the first and last three officers above named. The working tools are the Mallet and Indenting Chisel, which see. The symbolic color is purple. The Mark Master's Degree is now given in England under the authority of the Grand Lodge of Mark Masters, which was established in June, 1856 and is a Jurisdiction independent of the Grand Lodge. The officers are the same as in America, with the addition of a Chaplain, Director of Ceremonies, Assistant Director, Registrar of Marks, Inner Guard or Time Keeper, and two Stewards. Master Masons are eligible for initiation. Brother Hughan says that the Degree is virtually the same in England, Scotland, and Ireland. It differs, however, in some respects from the American Degree.

In a letter to the Masonic Home Journal, Louisville, Kentucky (see Proceedings, Grand Chapter, Royal Arch Masons, Michigan, 1920), Companion Alfred A. A. Murray offers the following note to correct an error relating to the Mark Degree in Scotland

As regards the Mark Degree itself it was not worked in the Fellow Craft Lodges, but there were really two Degrees, namely, that of Mark Man, which was given to a Fellow Craft, and that of Mark Master, which was given to a Master Mason. The Degree of Mark Man was worked down to within fifty years ago by various Craft lodges, and given to Fellow Crafts. The Degree of Mark Master was conferred as a separate Degree in the same way as the Royal Arch, and was expressly cut off by the Grand Lodge of Scotland, about 1800, in the same way that the Royal Arch and the Temple were cut off. Before that date they used to be worked by an inner circle of the Lodge as a sort of side issue not under the Grand Lodge of Scotland at all.

The Royal Arch and the Temple wore, after 1800, organized as governing Bodies, and then the Mark Master Degree was taken under the sole control of the Supreme Grand Chapter, and continued so 'til, as I say, about fifty years ago, then an agreement was made between the Grand Lodge and the Supreme Chapter that the two Degrees of Mark Man and Mark Master were to be amalgamated, and were to be conferred under the authority of either Body but only upon Master Masons. It is wise to get a clear statement made upon this point, because I observe a very large amount of mistaken information is being granted from time to time, which is derived from conuson. of thought and want of knowledge, and results roanetunes in mistaken action. Brother W. J. Hughan (Trestle Board, California, volume xxnii, No. 4, October, 1919) wrote:

During the centuries which immediately preceded the establishment of the premier Grand Lodge of England and the World, the mark was directly connected with operative and speculative Freemasonry, and from time immemorial, it has been the custom for the skilled Craftsman to chisel his distinctive Mark on the stones he fashioned, so as to indicate his workmanship. It is this fact that differentiates the Mark Degree from all other ceremonies additional to the first three, and justified the formation of the Mark Grand Lodge, nearly fifty years ago, so as to take under its wing those lodges which worked with interesting and suggestive ceremony the English Craft agreement excluding it from the formally recognized series, according to the Articles of Union of A.D. 1813-4.

The antiquity of Mark Masonry cannot be doubted. Operatively considered and even speculatively, it has enjoyed special prominence for centuries; records of the custom being followed by speculative Brethren, according to existing records, dating back to 1600, in which year, on June 8, "Ye principal warden and chief master of maisons, Wm. Schaw, master of work to ye Kingis Maistie," met members of the Lodge of Edinburgh-- now No. 1--at Holyrood House, at which meeting the Laird of Auchinleck was present, and attested the Minutes of the Assembly by his Mark as did the Operatives, in accordance with the Schaw Statutes of December 28, 1598, which provided: "That the day of reassauying, or receiving, of said fallow of craft or master be ord'lie buikit and his name and Mark insert in the said buik."

That theoretical Masons selected their Marks just as the Operatives did. during the seventeenth century is abundantly manifest, by an examination of the old Scottish records of that period. One of the most noteworthy instances out of many is the Mark Book of the Lodge of Aberdeen--now No. 1 tri-which started in l670 A.D., and is signed by forty-nine members, all of whom but two have their Marks inserted opposite their names. The Master of the 'Honorable Lodge of Aberdeen' in that year was Harrie Elphingston, Tutor of Airth and Collector of the King's Customs, and only a fourth part of the members were Operative Masons, the roll of Brethren including the Earl of Findlater, the Earl of Dumferline, Lord Pitsligo, the Earl of 'Errolle, a professor of mathematics, several ministers, doctors and other professional men and tradesmen, such as wrights, or carpenters, plaiters, glaziers, ete. The names of the apprentices were entered in another list, the Marks chosen by such being evidently similar to the fathers in several instances (see Marks of the Craft).

When the special and elaborate ceremony, with a distinctive legend, was first used it is not possible to decide, but probably about the middle of the eighteenth century, soon after the arrangement of the Royal Arch as a separate Degree. The oldest preserved records date from the year 1769, and there is no lack of evidence as to the observance of the custom in Speculative Lodges during that century and later either in separate Lodges or under the wing of the Royal Arch. The Mark continued to be worked in England as an unauthorized ceremony until the year 1856, when the Mark Grand Lodge was founded and has proved a conspicuous success, having ultimately secured the support of all the ' time immemorial ' and other Lodges in the country, besides having warranted several hundreds of Lodges to work the Degree in England and the Colonies and dependencies of the British Crown. The ceremony is very popular, especially in North America, and is recognized by all Grand Chapters of Royal Arch Masons there and elsewhere, excepting in England. The Grand Lodge of Ireland includes it with the additional Degrees belonging to the other Masonic Grand Bodies recognized in it and acting in union with it, and the Grand Lodge of Scotland authorizes the Mark to be conferred on Master Masons. and the secrets only to be communicated in presence of those who have taken the step in a Lodge entitled to grant it. The Mark Grand Lodge in recent years has incorporated the Mark Man with the Mark Master; and wisely so, as it was the former that was conferred on yellow Crafts, and the latter on Master Masons during the eighteenth century.

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