THE ORIGIN OF FREEMASONRY: The 1717 Theory Exploded [Translated]

THE ORIGIN OF FREEMASONRY: The 1717 Theory Exploded [Translated]
Written by Brother Chalmers Izett Paton in 1871. This is one of his many works on Freemasonry that attempts to “Explode the Theory” that Freemasonry derives its existence from the year 1717. Digital Text Publishing Company has translated the 1871 edition of this book for the Amazon Kindle.PREFACE:…..Many worthy brethren have been offended on account of the discredit done to the Masonic Order by the assertion, which is now often and confidently made, that the whole system of Freemasonry is of very recent origin — some saying that it was invented by Elias Ashmole and a few of his learned and ingenious friends in the seventeenth century, — others, more numerous, that it derives existence from the year 1717, and was devised, promulgated, and palmed upon the world by Dr Desaguliers, Dr Anderson, and others, who then founded the Grand Lodge of England. Some of these brethren have asked me, as a brother believed to take a deep interest in every question of this kind, and supposed to have opportunity for investigation, to bestow a little attention upon this subject — to inquire what grounds there are for the Ashmole theory, and what for the 1717 theory — or if they are not both utterly groundless. I have gladly endeavored to comply with their request, and hope the result may be satisfactory to them. I feel convinced that the proof which is set forth is sufficient, and the argument conclusive, and this is all — or almost all — that I care for in the matter. I have a strong desire to see the honor of our Order maintained, and to contribute my own part in every way possible to the maintaining of it; and I believe nothing can be more contrary to it than the supposition that Freemasonry is of recent origin. For, if it were so, it would be liable to be regarded not merely as an invention of men of talent, which might be good, but, of necessity, as an imposture, which in no case can be imagined to be good. When we consider how Freemasonry was presented to public notice in England, after the foundation of the Grand Lodge in 1717, we must feel ourselves constrained either to Acknowledge that Dr Desaguliers, Dr Anderson, and their coadjutors, were honest men doing a work which they believed to be good, or to set them down as a set of the most consummate rascals that ever imposed upon mankind, and yet with no motive for their imposture. No motive has ever been assigned or suggested. The case is one which needs to be plainly stated, and which the supporters of the 1717 theory must meet in the plainest statement of it. To maintain the honor or excellence of Freemasonry, and at the same time to maintain its base origin, is ridiculous. Looking to the characters of Dr. Desaguliers and Dr. Anderson, it seems impossible to doubt their thorough honesty and integrity. This of itself is a powerful argument; but another equally powerful is to be found in the character of the system which they did so much to promote in England and in the world — a system of high and pure morality. But I must not further anticipate, in the preface, the argument of the pamphlet itself, which I now respectfully commend to the attention of the members of the Masonic brotherhood EXCERPT:……The purpose for which the present pamphlet is designed is merely to show that the theory which ascribes the origin of modern Freemasonry to the year 1717 is untenable. This, it is hoped, has been accomplished—first, by evidence of the existence of a system essentially the same in the seventeenth century; and, secondly, by evidence of antiquity much beyond this. Enough, however, has been said to show the high probability of a very ancient origin of Freemasonry, and of the existence of a system in very ancient times essentially the same with that which exists at the present day. Enough has certainly been said to warrant the assertion that the 1717 theory is exploded.


My hair cut was, after three long hours, a success.  I think!  It is mostly the same as it was when it was first cut - maybe the bangs are a bit shorter.  Bangs, by the way, in England are called fringe.  

Anyway, my stylist was a trainee, but she had at least one supervisor pretty much the whole time.  She and the supervisors had some trouble at first deciding what to do with my hair, as it is “quite thick!”  Yes, thank you, I know.  They kept asking me questions like “what is it that you don’t like about your hair” as if they were trying to innovate a new solutions, while I kept trying to tell them that really I just wanted it to be shorter.  Eventually we came to an agreement and I sat there all through dinner and punting.  Oh well.  It came out well and, for £10, I can’t complain.  

Since I missed dinner and everyone was away trying to punt, I had to find some alternative food for myself.  Most sandwich shops here close around six, so that wasn’t an option, but waiting on Broad Street, right across from Trinity, was the Kebab Cart.  I got a lamb kebab for £3.50 (it comes on top of naan and with what they call “salad” which in this case ends up being lettuce, onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, and coleslaw) on top with chili and garlic sauce (or something to that effect).  I went and sat on the steps of the Clarendon building (former home of the Oxford University Press (formerly called the Clarendon Press)) to enjoy it while I read Emma and apparently looked like a good person for tourists to ask questions of.  Anyway, it was delicious. I ended up back on the Clarendon building steps with food from the kebab cart later, but this time with Brittany and Thamy and to share (chips with cheese and hummus by the way… that counts as healthy right? Whatever it doesn’t count because we shared it).  

Today I was forced to acknowledge that I have reached the end of the laundry rope and I will be doing that later tonight in conjunction with library time.  My plan was to do it right now, but there is something weird going on in the garden quad and a lot of the usual avenues around the college are blocked off - hopefully this will be resolved after dinner.  Anyway, based on my finding not even one single clean shirt in my drawer when I opened it this morning, I wore a dress and some tights - which was actually a good choice since today was unusually hot (really only 76 but for here!) and beautiful.  

Today’s art and architecture class started at the Ashmolean museum - a place I am truly coming to love - where we looked at paintings by J.M.W. Turner (which I recommend) and also the Pre-Raphaelites (kind of weird but also kind of awesome).  Next we moved on to talk about the gothic revival architecture of the Natural History Museum (a few pictures from when I went before).  Personally I think the iron gothic is lovely, but apparently people have a problem with it. 

Speaking of things that people have a problem with, our next stop: Keble College.  Keble College kind of looks like what Hogwarts might look like, if Hogwarts were a giant gingerbread house.  It is garish in the extreme and I loved it so much, in the same way that I like Oscar Wilde, for being really annoying and rude in the boldest way possible.  The architect, William Butterfield, apparently only ever did what he wanted to do.  Awesome.

By the time we were done with all this walking around, everyone’s stomachs were growling, so we stopped in at the Lamb and Flag pub for lunch.  Here tons of places serve what they call “jacket potatoes” but which are really just baked potatoes with fun toppings.  I got mine with cheese and bake beans, and it was delicious.  

So now we’re back and I really should get going on doing some homework.  This whole research paper thing is feeling a little daunting - I like writing papers for English much better because they are all about my opinion with maybe a small spattering of secondary critical articles.  This is all about history!  Don’t like. 

By the way, every week we have a scavenger hunt question designed to get us to see the city - this week’s question was about the namesake of the Ashmolean and a portrait of him in that museum.  I found it and answered the questions and therefore won the £5 prize money! Yay! Thanks Elias Ashmole!

Now, homework (or maybe not, dinner is only forty minutes from now).  Love!

Verse and Transmutation | Brill
Verse and Transmutation: A Corpus of Middle English Alchemical Poetry identifies and investigates a corpus of twenty-one anonymous Middle English recipes for the philosophers’ stone through critical editions and studies on their histories in early modern manuscripts, literature and libraries.

“Verse and Transmutation: A Corpus of Middle English Alchemical Poetry identifies and investigates a corpus of twenty-one anonymous recipes for the philosophers’ stone dating from the fifteenth century. These were circulated and received in association with each other until the mid-seventeenth century, when a number of them appeared in Elias Ashmole’s Theatrum Chemicum Britannicum.

These editions are the first to make this previously unidentified corpus available to researchers. The accompanying studies discover the complex histories of these alchemica, in plain and illuminated manuscripts, as anonyma and in attribution to famous authors, and in private and institutional, medical and academic book collections. Together, they offer novel insights into the role of alchemy and poetry in late medieval and early modern England.”