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E.2.5 Speculative

The accepted masons came to be known as speculative masons in the middle of the eighteenth century. Initially “speculative” did not suggest symbolism. “To speculate” is to take a view of anything, or to analyse with the mind. In the seventeenth century anybody who practised contemplation was speculating. This was the activity of the idealist, not the man of fact and practice. Literary men of the seventeenth century liked to be described as involved in speculation. Building, and all practical process at that time, included some “speculative work” that we would now describe as “theory”. This theoretical work was the responsibility of the Master-Craftsman. The use of geometry was described as speculative, as it did not require the use of tools. The non-operative learned members of Freemasonry were surprised to find educated operative members who backed their practical work with theory. They were soon described as “speculative”. As the accepted masons became more and more involved in the symbolic aspects of the Craft they called themselves “speculative masons” not to me confused with the practical stone masons. “Speculative” meant theory and contemplation, but when it is used to describe morality, philosophy, esoteric doctrines or principles it means Freemasonry. In Scotland these non-operative masons were known as “Geomatic”, a word derived from geometry that meant members interested in theory, whereas the Scots operative masons were qualified of “dogmatic”. The use of the word “speculative” in the fifteenth century does not mean, of course, that speculative Masonry, as it is known to day, was practised then.