I began my Masonic Career in 1987 but it was not until some time around 1992 that I began to study the Craft. My original intent was to try to re-write the Apron Lecture because some of the wording in it is archaic and refers to lesser known entities, organizations or orders. Well, it soon became apparent to me that I was woefully unprepared for such an undertaking so I abandoned this effort, recognizing that men of much greater talent have done a much better job than I could have.
Fortunately, I was friends with a Mason who was and is light years ahead of me in intelligence and knowledge of the Craft and he pointed me in the right direction of study and I am very grateful for his guidance. I have since lost contact with this friend because our lives have taken a different direction.
One of the avenues he pointed out to me was a series of articles that appeared in the newspapers in the town in which the writer lived. This writer's name was Bro Frank Charles Higgins. He was a coin collector and in the course of his travels, he sought out information on Freemasonry. It is remarkable that he was able to attain this knowledge in a day and age that knew not the information super highway. It is also a testament to his intellect to be able to compile this information into a chronological story that is very readable and extremely informative.
Much of what you are about to read comes from his book, “Ancient Freemasonry, an Introduction into Masonic Archeology.”
For years, I have been curious about the Craft and its symbolism. Take for example, the color blue and the color purple. I couldn't figure out how these colors came to be associated with our Order. Another is the Square and Compasses. I questioned how these colors and emblems came to be associated with Freemasonry and why.
Regarding the Square and Compasses, we are all familiar with the modern teachings of the moral equivalent of these emblems, but I wondered, “What am I missing?”. Well the answer came from this Illustrious Brother in the above mentioned book. I read this information several years ago but it just did not sink into my consciousness until I re-read it for the third time.
I learned that there were two distinct but entirely separate guilds of Masons that shared the same name but not the same knowledge. One was the Square Masons and the other was the Arch Masons. I cannot tell you how far back this separation went but I surmise that it was quite a number of years, decades and/or centuries. If you were a member of one guild you could not be a member of the other. The simple reason for this is that the Arch Masons required a higher level of education than the Square Masons because of the type of construction involved. The emblems associated with the Square Masons was, of course, the square. The emblem associated with the Arch Masons was the Compasses. These, as well as their Charters, were assigned to them by King Edward IV circa 1450-1475. Each of these guilds divided their craft into 7 different levels of education, or degrees, which were often referred to as “Mysteries.” The aspirant, or candidate, at the completion of his seven years was required to pass a test to exhibit his knowledge of his particular guild in order to become a “Fellow of the Craft.”
On certain occasions, or holidays, these Masons would act our their “Mysteries” in public, but only the initiated would be able to recognize the meaning of these “Mysteries” and therefore the secrets were kept secret. Honor and vows of secrecy were strictly adhered to by the initiated.
Now, regarding the Square and Compasses: sometime in the past, and I can only surmise when this happened because there is no record of it, probably around the time when Masonry became less operative and more speculative and assumed the title of Free and Accepted Masons, these two symbols were united and represents the unification of the Square and Arch Masons. This is only an assumption on my part but in my way of thinking, it makes sense. You may or may not agree with me on this, and that's fine, but I urge you to investigate for yourself.
Now, as to the color blue. When King Edward IV granted Charters to the Square and Arch Masons Guilds, he also assigned a color to each. Blue for the Square Masons which is where, I assume, that the Blue Lodge designation comes from, and Red for the Arch Masons. (For the Royal Arch Masons)
Now, regarding the color purple, when you combine or mix the colors red and blue you come up with the color purple, which again represents the unification of the two guilds and signifies Honor and elevation to a higher degree of learning.
In the Apron Lecture you are instructed that, “….and even the purple of the Fraternity may rest upon your Honored shoulders…….” and now I know, at least in my own mind, how this color came to be associated with Freemasonry.
PM Riverdale Lodge #709