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C.3.3 The Hutchinsonian Theory

William Hutchinson expressed his view on the origin and story of Freemasonry in his book “The Spirit of Masonry” published first in 1775. First of all, he rejects any connection with any previous operative society such as the operative masons or architects. He also put in doubt the former organisations of operative masons, and the suggestion that they knew some secrets or mysteries. However he admits that organised Masonry existed at the Temple of Solomon, but he added that Solomon knew the principles of Freemasonry, that he communicated them to “some sage and religious men” of his kingdom who, incidentally, built the Temple before going back to their previous work.

This total disconnection between the operative and speculative Masons has not been accepted by any other writer. It is Hutchinson’s theory, and nothing else. He divides the evolution of Masonry into three stages represented by the three ancient Craft degrees:

– The first stage, linked to the Entered Apprentice Degree, begins with Adam and the Garden of Eden and goes on until the time of Moses. The “knowledge of the God of Nature”, as well as all the sciences and knowledge available at that time, were imparted to Adam who remembered them, as part of his punishment, after he was expelled from Eden for his sins. He was able to communicate them to his children, and by them to their descendants and this was the foundation of Masonry. After the deluge, this knowledge fell into confusion and oblivion and it was also corrupted into idolatry. People, among them the Egyptians, started to adore the Sun, Moon, and Stars in contradiction with the Laws of the True God. The Egyptians, and later on the Greeks and the Romans, hid the mysteries of their religions behind symbols and hieroglyphs understandable only by their priests. The masons, as a mean of concealing their mysteries, adopted these methods of teaching by symbols. This first stage consisted in the simple belief and worship of the true God following the doctrine revealed to Adam and transmitted to his descendants by the patriarchs. It was a system of religious principles with few rites and ceremonies, and even less symbols.

– The second stage, represented by the Fellow Craft degree, begins at the time of Moses and goes on through all the Jewish history until the advent of Christianity. The Jewish lawgiver was, of course, aware of the true Masonry as taught by the patriarchs, but it was complemented by the instruction God gave to Moses on the Mount Sinai. One had now to believe in a Deity as required by God himself. The second, or Mosaic stage of Masonry, had become Judaic. Moses introduced the rites, ceremonies, symbols, and hieroglyphs used before by the Egyptian priests, which he learned during his stay in this country. The operative art of Masonry was also introduced at that time, but the main activity of these people remained, however, speculative since their work as builders and architects was accidental. Masonry was not organised at the time of the Temple of Solomon that was built by masons of different nationalities including Israelite. However its building occupies an important place in the history of the Craft. After the completion of the Temple, these Masons were dispersed in the entire world where they taught their art. According to this theory King Solomon was not the founder of Masonry at the Temple, nor its first Grand Master, but he propagated it in the foreign countries, whereas before Masonry was confined to the Jewish descendants of the Patriarchs.

– The third stage of the Masonry history began with Christianity; it is represented by the Master Degree that brought up the complete and perfect knowledge of God. Masonry assumes then a purely Christian form and a Christian interpretation, and the allegory of the Third Degree refers directly to Christ. The Christianisation of the Third or Master Degree, with its symbols referring to Christ, was common in the eighteenth century. Christian references were removed from Freemasonry at the initiative of Dr. Hemming although all Masons did not accept this until the middle of the nineteenth century. From the time of Anderson and Desaguliers, the Legend of Hiram Abif had been generally accepted by the Craft as a historical event. Now it is believed to be a myth that could be based on distorted historical events. On the other hand Hutchinson never mentioned Hiram Abif whom he did not recognise as a Mason but, at the best, as a painter or sculptor. For him the Third Degree symbolises the corruption and death of religion, and the moral resurrection of man in the new Christian doctrine. To Hutchinson, Hiram Abif’s legend is false, and he denies the legend of the Third Degree at the Temple. At the time of the building of the Temple Masonry had only two degrees and the second, or Fellow Craft degree, was a system of Jewish religious ethics revealed by God to Moses; it came in addition to the simple creed of the Patriarchs that constitutes the first or Apprentice stage of the Craft. The Legend, or allegory of Hiram Abif, was unknown then, and was introduced later as a myth in the Third or Master Degree after the death of Jesus Christ.

Hutchinson did not have any followers. In summary his theory states that Masonry went through three phases: first, the Patriarchal; second, the Jewish; third, the Christian which is still valid to day.

During the first stage of Masonry, the Druids were initiated by the Phoenicians who traded with Britain. In the second stage, some of the Israelite Masons who had built the Temple came to Britain and taught their art locally. Christian missionaries have introduced the third stage in Britain at the time of the conversion of the Druids to Christianity from Rome.