Freemasons, in affixing dates to their official documents, never make use of the Common Epoch or Vulgar Era, but have one peculiar to themselves, which, however, varies in the different rites. Era and epoch are, in this sense, synonymous.
Strictly, the epoch is an important point in history beginning a period termed an era, as the epoch of the Crucifixion followed by the Christian Era.
Freemasons of the York, American, and French Rites, that is to say, the Freemasons of England, Scotland, Ireland, France, Germany, and America, date from the creation of the world, calling it Anno Lucis, which they abbreviate A. . L. ., signifying in the Year of Light. Thus with them the year 1872 is A.'. L.'. 5872. This they do, not because they believe Freemasonry to be coeval with the Creation, but with a symbolic reference to the light of Freemasonry.
In the Scottish Rite, the epoch also begins from the date of the creation, but Freemasons of that Rite, using the Jewish chronology, would call the year 1872 A.'. M.'. or Anno Mundi meaning in the Year of the World, 5632. They sometimes use the initials A.'. H. '., signifying Anno Hebraico, or, in the Hebrew year.
They have also adopted the Hebrew months, and the year, therefore, begins with them in the middle of September (see Months, Hebrew).
Freemasons of the York and American Rites begin the year on the lst of January, but in the French Rite it commences on the lst of March, and instead of the months receiving their usual names, they are designated numerically, as first, second, third, etc. Thus, the lst of January, 1872, would be styled, in a French Masonic document, the lst day of the 11th Masonic month, Anno Lucis, 5872. The French sometimes, instead of the initials A.'. L.'., use L'an de la V.'. L. '., or Vraie Lumire, that is, Year of True Light.
Royal Arch Masons commence their epoch with the year in which Zerubbabel began to build the second Temple, which was 530 years before Christ.
Their style for the year 1872 is, therefore, A.'. Inv.'., that is, Anno Inventionis, or, in the Year of the Discovery, 2402.
Royal and Select Masters very often make use of the common Masonic date, Anno Lucis, but properly they should date from the year in which Solomon's Temple was completed; and their style would then be, Anna Depositionis, or, in the Year of the Deposit, and they would date the year 1872 as 2872.
Knights Templar use the epoch of the organization of their Order in 1118. Their style for the year 1872 is A.'. O.'., Anno 0rdinis, or, in the Year of the 0rder, 754.
We subjoin, for the convenience of reference, the rules for discovering these different dates.
l. To find the Ancient Craft date. Add 4000 to the Vulgar Era. Thus 1872 and 4000 are 5872. 2. To find the date of the Scottish Rite. Add 3760 to the Vulgar Era. Thus 1872 and 3760 are 5632. After September add one year more. 3. To find the date of Royal Arch Masonry. Add 530 to the Vulgar Era. Thus 530 and 1872 are 2402. 4. To find the Royal and Select Masters' date. Add 1000 to the Vulgar Era. Thus 1000 and 1872 are 2872. 5. To find the Knights Templar's. Subtract 1118 from the Vulgar Era. Thus 1118 from 1872 is 754. The following will show, in one view, the date of the year 1872 in all the branches of the Order:
Year of the Lord, 1872 A.D.-Vulgar Era. Year of Light, A.'. L.'. 5872-Ancient Craft Masonry. Year of the World, A.'. M.'. 5632-Scottish Rite. Year of the Discovery, A.'. L.'. 2402-Royal Arch Masonry. Year of the Deposit, A.'. Dep.'. 2872-Royal and Select Masters. Year of the Order, A.'. O.'. 754-Knights Templar.
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