8 Schools of Freemasonry

This series will look at the ‘Eight Schools of Freemasonry’ that have developed over the centuries since its founding in 1717.

There have almost certainly been other streams of education to come out of Masonry but the eight we will focus on, are subjects which most Masons have at least heard of, if they are not already familiar with them.

Each school we feature will offer us the opportunity to explore and understand the concepts within, and to learn how we can utilise the lessons and skills within our Masonic – and daily – lives.

The Eight Schools

These specific schools of Freemasonry were first outlined in H. L. Haywood’s seminal book ‘The Great Teachings of Masonry’ (1923).

Haywood attributed various advocates to the majority of the ‘schools’; these were invariably eminent scholars, who promoted Masonic education in line with their respective streams of learning.

 

1: The Scientific School – the study of the arts and sciences; this school of learning was promoted by William Preston, creator of many of our rituals.

 

2: The Rational School –  it was Freemason Karl Friedrich Krause who promulgated the acquiring of knowledge through reason to become a perfected human being, a smooth ashlar.

 

3: The Christian School – the Rev George Oliver promoted this school of thought and believed that Freemasonry should exist to reconcile Christianity and Philosophy, rejecting excess intellectualism and attaching value to intuition, faith and tradition. Oliver was also a proponent of the ‘Romantic’ school of thought (see below).

 

4: The Philosophical School – Albert Pike advocated the pursuit of wisdom and enlightenment by means of the study of Masonic symbolism, and the conduct of Masonic ritual.

 

5: The Historical School –  Robert Freke Gould viewed Freemasonry as a school of wisdom for Masons who utilised their time and effort to study the history of the Craft and its symbols.

 

6: The Esoteric School – Arthur Edward Waite viewed Freemasonry as a form of mystical teaching. He taught that enlightenment was achieved through the perfection of the self via the study of arcane knowledge and practice of occult rites.

 

7: The Romantic School – those Masons who believe in what is generally seen as Masonic ‘alternative history’ i.e. the Templar connection. Similar to the Christian school, it generally rejects overt intellectualism in favour of intuition and tradition.

 

8: The Authentic School – those who follow this train of thought primarily view Freemasonry as purely an exercise in scholarship and philanthropy. They are notably dismissive of the ‘Romantic’ and ‘Esoteric’ Schools, preferring to use an evidence-based scholarly approach.

The Masonic Conception of Education

However, before we delve into the Eight Schools, we might begin with an introduction as to the ‘Masonic Conception of Education’.

In Haywood’s book, he describes the concept in a chapter of the same name (chapter 17) – it is a fairly long read but I believe that even though it was written 100 years ago, the ‘conception’ is still the same:

There were no schools when [Free]masonry came into existence. Medieval Europe had much learning but no great public institutions for the diffusing of it.

There were a few seminaries where men might receive an ‘education’ for the priesthood, and there were, here and there, a few monasteries, nunneries, brotherhoods, lay organisations, and what not, which dispensed to a handful of young people the rudiments of knowledge.

Of schools as they now exist, and have existed for two or three hundred years, there were none. Nor was there in any community a daily press, or weekly periodicals, or a library, or cheap books, or a learned society, or a correspondence school.

But there was such a thing as education, often of a high type, and sometimes of a degree never afterwards excelled, for the Mediaevalists gave us the greatest architecture that has ever been known, and some of the greatest pictures, and much wonderful sculpture, not to mention the flowering out of the religious spirit: these gifts could not come from an ignorant and debased people, such as the mediaevalists are by many often supposed to have been.

To erect a St. Mark’s, or a St. Peter’s, to build such a city as Venice, or to paint such pictures as those of Tintoretto, or to conceive the ideal and spirit of the Franciscan movement required a trained intelligence, a directed and fruitful genius, which can only come from that discipline of the human nature that we know as ‘education’.

“The student was called an ‘apprentice’, or ‘learner’, for such does the word mean in nearly all languages.”

If the people had no schools, whence came such an education? The answer to this question is found in the system of apprenticeship which was in universal use with those guilds and brotherhoods that built Venice, and erected the cathedrals, and painted the pictures, and created the sculptures.

Instead of going into a public school the youth went into a guild. Instead of studying from a teacher who sits behind a desk with a book in his hand, the medieval student learned from a master in the very operations of work.

Instead of receiving a diploma on sheepskin he was given the means of proving to anybody that he was himself a master workman, entitled to receive a master’s wages wherever he might go.

Put yourself in the place of some medieval architect entrusted with work on one of the huge cathedrals which, once completed, became at once the wonder and despair of all subsequent builders.

You had to have skilled workmen. You were compelled to find men who knew how to hew stone properly out of a quarry, how to dress it in the rough, how to read plans, how to solve geometrical problems, how to carve, to erect scaffoldings, to round an arch, throw up a spire, and also, in many cases, how to organise and direct other workmen.

Where would you find such men? You would draw from the ranks of intelligent youths such as gave promise of skill and you would very carefully have them trained in all these processes, and, because many of these processes were valuable trade secrets, you would take great care to bind these youths to you in a secrecy from which knowledge might not escape clandestinely to the outside world.

The necessity for educating youths into the extremely difficult art of fine building was one of the causes which led to the founding of Freemasonry.

Because of this necessity the trade union grew into a lodge. Members were bound together by solemn ties, and local organisations were compelled to affiliate themselves together into a wide brotherhood of workmen.

The student was called an ‘apprentice’, or ‘learner’, for such does the word mean in nearly all languages.

There were no books wherewith to teach him, so his masters taught him by means of the work itself, and the tools and practices used in the work.

And since these students had to live together in closest unity it was necessary also to train them in morality, for without morality there can be no permanent association.

And because these young men were to work on religious buildings being erected by religious organisations it was inevitable that religion should come to have a central place in the scheme of education.

In all this we have the beginnings and the conditions out of which Freemasonry arose.

When Operative Masonry reached that stage in its history wherein it became transformed gradually into Speculative, or Symbolical Masonry, learning, or knowledge, or enlightenment (one may use any of these terms), had come to be at the core of it.

But since the knowledge of actual building arts was no longer of any purpose to the members of the Fraternity the old ‘work’ was gradually transformed into symbols and allegory, and the ‘apprentice’ in the new order of things was set to learn the art of building manhood and brotherhood.

“Let us then make the lodge into a schoolroom…”

In the early eighteenth century when the old Operative Craft was made over into the Symbolical institution as we now know it, it happened that one of the major prophets of the new day, William Preston (1742 – 1818), was burning with an enthusiasm for education, a thing I have already referred to.

There were schools in England for the sons of a few rich, but no school for the masses, and among those young men who found their way into the transformed Masonry there were few with any education at all.

Preston said, ‘Let us then make the lodge into a schoolroom. While we are making Masons of these youths let us at the same time give them the rudiments of knowledge.’

So he worked out an elaborate system of lectures in which were set forth something of all the subjects between the five senses and the fine arts.

The Second Degree as it now stands is to a great extent the result and abiding memorial of that noble endeavour.

When Freemasonry first came into existence in the form recognised as such by us it was very largely an educational institution.

When it found its great rebirth in England during the Grand Lodge era it rapidly became a centre of knowledge.

It has searched for ‘light’ from the beginning; it has always inculcated in its devotees a desire for ‘more light’—to-day it continues to hold up as its ideal of human perfection the man of ‘enlightenment’.

Therefore this emphasis which to-day we place on the need for light is not a hatched-up, pseudo-emphasis, but a passion deeply rooted in the very nature of our Order, and inseparable from it.

What is true of Masonry’s attitude toward education is equally true of its attitude toward that institution which has come to be the custodian of education, the public school.

Those who wonder why we Masons should keep so watchful an eye upon every educational enterprise may any time satisfy their wonder by a careful study of the birth, the growth, and the culmination of our Fraternity.

It would be quite useless, as many another essayist has learnt to his sorrow, to attempt to fashion a definition of education, for it is one of those fundamental and profound conceptions which defy analysis and escape words: but even so it is a thing that we recognise without understanding it and describe without defining.

There was a time when by ‘education’ men referred to a fixed body of knowledge, inherited from past times, crowned by tradition and approved by authority, which was gotten into the minds of students by a certain fixed method.

This quantum of knowledge was supposed to be invariably suited to all minds, whatever their cast or bent, and the boy who could not master it was thereby catalogued among the dunces or the shirks.

There was a great deal more truth in that old conception of education than the present-day reformers are willing to admit, but even so it is a conception which we must abandon.

There is no such thing as a quantum of knowledge the acquirement of which constitutes an education, for education, so the psychologists have made us see, is quite another kind of thing.

“It is education that bridges over the wide gulf between the helplessness of the babe and the manifold capabilities of the adult nature.”

A human being comes into this world quite helpless and quite ignorant. He is so dependent on others that the word ‘baby’ is almost synonymous with the word ‘helplessness’.

He cannot talk; or read, or walk, or work, or feed, or clothe himself—a being more abjectly helpless it would be hard to imagine.

An adult man, on the other hand, if he be normal in all ways, must be able to work so well that the world will pay him money for it.

He must be able to make his wants felt, his thoughts known, and his qualities appreciated.

He has a wife to cherish, a family to support, a home to maintain. He must know something of the functions of citizenship.

He must be able to take his place with his fellows in all the thousand activities of normal life.

It is education that bridges over the wide gulf between the helplessness of the babe and the manifold capabilities of the adult nature.

Parents, insofar as they are tutors of their own children, schools, books, teachers, and the individual’s own experience, are all so many instruments of education, and it matters little how a man secures education so long as he is an adult able to fulfil all his normal functions in the various relationships of life.

What particular kinds of knowledge a man must have, whether it be Latin and Greek, literature, science, philosophy, civics, what not, depends on the nature of a man himself and upon the conditions under which he has to live his life.

Anything is good education that enables us to be happy in our life environment.

From this it will be seen that education is by its own inherent nature a social thing. It is something that prepares a man to live with his fellows, to work with them and for them, to understand them, to get on well with them.

It is a thing that makes possible the fulfilment of the fragrant saying that it is a good and beautiful thing for brethren to dwell together in unity.

And since education is by its nature a social thing, a thing fraught with all the fates of society, then it is perfectly self-evident that education must be defined and managed by society itself, and for society’s own good.

To permit any group to turn education into an anti-social engine, so that it functions against all in the favour of a few, is as foolish a thing as to turn loose upon society all the hordes of confusion, anarchy, and war.

It is because of this fact that Freemasonry is so keenly interested in and concerned for ‘the education of all the children of all the people’.

The ‘Temple’ which the Craft is building is nothing other than the human family living happily together.

The equality and democracy for which it has ever stood is nothing other than its preaching of the fact that men and women are by nature brethren and should live together as such.

If there are any educational agencies, or any types of education, upon which Freemasonry wages a tireless war, it is because those agencies are promulgating an education which teaches men that we are not all brethren, and that it is not wise for us all to try to live together in harmony.

Any institution which insists upon democracy as Freemasonry insists upon it must everlastingly be concerned much with the institutions of education. Like schools, like people.

“Masonic Research does not mean a delving into the dust bins of antiquity for rare lore—it means a digging out of Masonry that which there is now in it for truth, and for light.”

An institution which demands so high an educational ideal on the part of the outside world should, so it would seem, itself set a shining example.

This is the whole pith and contention of those organisations like the National Masonic Research Society of this country and the Quatuor Coronati Lodge in England, and many others that might be mentioned, which exist to further the cause of Masonic education.

There is no known way whereby, through a kind of magic, we can find light in Masonry. If a man wishes to learn something of history, he studies it; so if a man would learn Freemasonry he must study it.

Initiation is no occult process whereby, without the exercise of his own faculties, and minus the necessary acquisitions of knowledge, a man may be conducted into the full glow of truth, Masonic or otherwise.

Those who would become real Masons must work to that end—the light does not come miraculously but at the end of a toilsome way.

There is a vast deal—far, far more than most men dream—of knowledge and truth hidden away in our traditions, our history, our customs, our laws, and, above all, in our incomparable ritual, but a man can no more become possessed of that treasure without working for it, than he can come into an understanding of Greek without studying it.

Masonic Research does not mean a delving into the dust bins of antiquity for rare lore—it means a digging out of Masonry that which there is now in it for truth, and for light.

These sentences may sound like broad generalisations, but if so, they are generalisations of facts that are real enough.

To some of us it seems a sin and a shame that hundreds of lodges do not scruple to push a man from one degree to another until he has had them all, and all the badges that go with them, without so much as an effort made to tell him what it all means, without so much as a step taken toward leading him into a realisation of all that he has experienced.

No wonder that there are Masons who have nothing of Masonry save the name!

 – source: H. L. Haywood ‘The Great Teachings of Masonry‘ (1923)

In the May 2022 Issue of the Square Magazine, we will begin with Part 1 – ‘The Scientific School’ – what it encompasses, who advocated it, and how we can utilise the liberal arts and sciences within our Masonic Education.

Article by: Philippa Lee. Editor

Philippa Lee (writes as Philippa Faulks) is the author of eight books, an editor and researcher.

Philippa was initiated into the Honourable Fraternity of Ancient Freemasons (HFAF) in 2014.

Her specialism is ancient Egypt, Freemasonry, comparative religions and social history. She has several books in progress on the subject of ancient and modern Egypt.  Selection of Books Online at Amazon

Great Teachings Of Masonry

by H. L. Haywood (Author)

This scarce antiquarian book is a facsimile reprint of the original. Due to its age, it may contain imperfections such as marks, notations, marginalia and flawed pages. Because we believe this work is culturally important, we have made it available as part of our commitment for protecting, preserving, and promoting the world’s literature in affordable, high quality, modern editions that are true to the original work.

 

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