Sunday, January 11, 2009

Knights of the Square and Compasses - An Introduction

In the year 1737, the Chevalier Andrew Ramsay offered an oration to the members of the craft in Paris. As many of the early members of the Lodge were apt to do, he offered an impressive history of the fraternity, one that was full of intrigue, mystery, and utter hogwash. In this oration, Ramsay offered this point,
"In the times of the holy wars in Palestina, several princes, lords, and artists
associated, swore to reestablish the temples of the christians in the Holy Lands
and to use their science and their goods to bring back architecture to its
pristine institution, they recalled all the ancient signs and mysterious words
of Solomon in order to distinguish themselves from the Infidels and make
themselves known to each other."

He then continues to explain that this order ultimately united with the Knights of St. John. And from that union, the craft has been passed down until the present day.
These princes and lords that Ramsay discusses are the Knights of the Holy Crusades. They were not feeble (some might have been in actuality) lords that sat on thrones, but lords that commanded their armies in their wars, for better or worse. These men were fighting men, they were knights.
Now, I don't espouse any of these theories as fact. It's definately romantic to believe that somehow these knights found [recalled] the ancients signs and mysterious of Solomon and initiated themselves into an order that bears paternity to our Masonry. But as with most romantic legends that are passed down, they are usually completely false.
The one thing that I find interesting in this romantic legend, though, is the idea that Masonry abides by the precepts and conduct that is befitting a knight. Remember, that the period that Ramsay gave his oration was the beginning of the Romantic Era. The idea that knights wore shining armor and followed a strict code of conduct known as chivalry was born during this era.
Knights, some more then others, did follow this Code of Chivalry. Is there a relationship between the knights that wore shining armor and the brethren who wear leathern aprons? Is the knights abiding faith in his God, his service to Him akin to our desire to be closer to the One that we call Deity?
In the next few weeks, I hope to look at the different tenets of Chivalry, from Loyalty to Faith and match them with their counterparts in our rituals and teachings. We may not be descended from the men that risked their lives for their faith in the hot sands of the Middle East. But, we are Knights in our own right, we are the Knights of the Square and Compasses.

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