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C.2.14 Summary

The Legend of the Craft, as presented in the later manuscripts (from the Dowland to the Papworth), begins with a description of the seven liberal Arts and Sciences considered as the final stage of all human learning. The Masons took over these sciences and used their description as a preface to the story they were about to write. This they did because the main science was Geometry that they believe to be synonymous with Masonry.

The connection between Geometry and Architecture, as practised by the Operative Freemasons of the Middle Ages, is known. The only secrets of these Freemasons were those linked to the application of Geometry to the art of building. The legend goes on with the description of some events connected with the children of Lamech, and in particular the fact that they inscribed all the known sciences of that time on two pillars to prevent their loss. Hermes discovered one of these pillars after the flood and he was able to rediscover the sciences of the past, including Masonry. Nimrod applied that knowledge to Architecture and he was involved in the construction of the Tower of Babel. He was the first to organise the Masons in a single body, and he gave them a Constitution or Charter. Masonry, according to the Legend, was founded in Babylon before spreading to the rest of the world.

The Legend goes on to say that Abraham and Nimrod were contemporary. This allowed the story to claim that Abraham carried into Egypt the knowledge that he acquired from Nimrod and the Chaldeans. Together with Euclid he taught Geometry to the Egyptians. It is historically proved that science and learning were transferred to Southern Europe and Western Asia from Egypt, long before the appearance of the Greek and Roman civilisations. Masonry also derived part of its science of symbolism from Egypt and the Mysteries of Osiris and Isis were at the base of all the mystical initiations in Asia and Southern Europe and, perhaps, of those of Gaul, Britain and Scandinavia.

From the birth of Masonry and Architecture, the Legend takes us to Judea where Hiram Abif built the Jerusalem Temple for King Solomon. Afterwards, the masons who built this temple travelled to many different countries to further their experience and knowledge, and to disseminate their Art. The “Travelling Freemasons” of the Middle Ages, the cathedral and monastery builders, are supposed to be part of this movement, although the time scale is different. The legend goes on describing the following introduction of a Greek-inspired architecture in France. The Roman invaders introduced architecture in Britain but it decayed after their departure. King Edwin of Northumbria revived it in the seventh century. An example of this can be seen in the Cathedral of York. The architecture decayed a second time and was revived once more in the tenth century under King Athelstan according to the Masonic Legend. Athelstan reorganised the Craft and gave it a charter.

After the revival of Freemasonry in the eighteenth century, this Legend was used as a base for the various Constitutions written by Anderson and his followers. They did not introduce new legends, but they offered new theories on the origin and the history of Freemasonry based on the Legend of the Craft. Both the legend and the New Theories have had a strong influence on Modern Freemasonry.