Michael A. Botelho, 32°, K.C.C.H.
P.O. Box 391, Eureka Springs, Arkansas 72632
Defining Masonic Landmarks involves consulting
sources and one's own insights.
Illustrious Albert Gallatin Mackey, 33°,
(18071881) had considerable influence regarding the initial
definition of Masonic landmarks.
A young Brother recently asked me to help him understand
the meaning of the word Landmarks as it is used in our
Fraternity. The Brother had read a great deal of Masonic literature
in the short time since he was raised, but was confused by the
conflicting information he was presented. Frankly, he is not alone!
The matter of what is and is not a "Landmark" of the
Craft is one of the most debated issues in Freemasonry.
In 1865, the word Landmarks was defined by
Albert Mackey, the prominent Masonic writer, as "those ancient
and universal customs of the Order, which either gradually grew
into operation as rules of action, or, if at once enacted by any
competent authority, were enacted at a period so remote that no
account of their origin is to be found in the record of history."
Mackey also laid down three requisite characteristics
of Landmarks, which continue to be generally accepted today. These
are: (1) immemorial antiquity (2) universality (3) absolute irrevocability.
The concept of Masonic Landmarks appears in George
Payne's General Regulations, which was published with
James Anderson's Constitutions of 1723. It is generally
accepted that Payne used manuscripts of the operatives, the regulations
of stonemason guilds. These operatives appeared to use the word
in the sense of the old traditional secrets of the builder's
craft, trade secrets relevant to the effective construction of
William Preston, in his 1772 Illustrations of
Masonry, clearly uses "Landmarks" as synonymous
with established usages and customs of the Masonic Craft. He refers
to the ritual of the Master Mason's Degree as the preservation
of the ancient "landmarks." His arguments had serious
weight as the Grand Lodge of England expressly sanctioned his
He also refers to the Charges in the Installation
of the Master Elect, wherein the Master Elect is required to promise
to "strictly conform to every edict of the Grand Lodge which
is not subversive to the principles of Masonry" and, further,
"that it is not within the power of any man or body of men
to make alterations or innovations in the body of Masonry."
As Brother Roscoe Pound, a Past Master who for many
years was a professor of Law at Harvard University, wrote in his
1941 book Masonic Jurisprudence: "these principles,
this groundwork, this body of Masonry, whether we use the term
Landmarks' or not, convey the very idea which has become
familiar to us by that name."
In 1856, Dr. Albert Gallatin Mackey, 33°, attempted
to set down the actual Landmarks as he saw them. He determined
there were 25 in all. Seven years later, in 1863, George Oliver
published Freemason's Treasury in which he listed
40 Landmarks. In the last century, a number of American Grand
Lodges attempted the daunting task of enumerating the Landmarks,
ranging from West Virginia (7) and New Jersey (10) to Nevada (39)
and Kentucky (54).
Brother Joseph Fort Newton, in his wonderful writing
called The Builders, attempts to define Landmarks in a
single statement: "The fatherhood of God, the brotherhood
of man, the moral law, the Golden Rule, and the hope of life everlasting."
I, personally, favor the six Landmarks preferred
by Roscoe Pound. These include:
- Belief in a Supreme Being
- Belief in a persistence of personality
- A "book of law" as an indispensable part of the
"furniture" (or furnishings) of the Lodge
- The Hiramic legend of the Third Degree
- The symbolism of the operative art
- That a Mason be a man, freeborn, and of age.
The first and foremost Landmark, in my opinion,
is belief in a Supreme Being, generally described in Masonry by
the title the Great (or Grand) Architect of the Universe. This
will be found included in all lists of Landmarks, regardless of
The second, persistence of personality, can, for
Christian Masons, more clearly be called the immortality of the
soul. Most of the major religions of the world have a similar
doctrine. Even the Buddhist doctrine of transmigration and ultimate
Nirvana would meet this requirement.
The third of Pound's Landmarks is "the
book of the law, that volume which, by the religion of a country,
is believed to contain the revealed word of the Great Architect."
For Lodges in Christian countries this would be the Bible consisting
of the Old and New Testaments. In countries where Judaism prevails,
it would be the Bible consisting of the Old Testament. In Islamic
countries, it would be the Koran, and in Hindu countries, it would
be the Shasters.
In India before its national independence, it was
common for Christian Englishmen to sit in Lodge with Hindus and
Moslems. Such Lodges kept a Bible, a Koran, and a Shasters on
the altar. The essential idea of this is to emphasize that Masonry,
while not a religion, is an institution which recognizes religion
and seeks to be a co-worker with religion in the quest for moral
progress. It was the action of the Grand Orient (Grand Lodge)
of France, which in 1877 substituted the Book of Constitutions
upon its altars for the traditional book of law, that resulted
in the cessation of recognition of that Orient by the majority
of Grand Lodges of the day.
The fourth Landmark is the Hiramic legend of the
Third Degree. Mackey said of it "any rite which would exclude
it or materially alter it, would at once ...cease to be a Masonic
The fifth Masonic Landmark is symbolism. Symbolism
in Masonry is immemorial and universal, having clearly been inherited
from the early rites of the Craft.
The sixth and last of this list of Landmarks supports
the tradition that a Mason must be a freeborn man, of full and
lawful age, according to the custom of the place. This tradition
has its roots in the early social systems of Europe, where a person
was either "free-born" (nobility, soldiers, and skilled
craftsmen) or bonded to the land (serfs, laborers, and the unskilled).
So, I said to the inquisitive young Brother, "These
are the Landmarks with which I find myself most at ease."
Are they complete? It is not for me to say. Rather, every Mason
must do as this young Brother and I have doneexplore this
matter and satisfy himself.