Saints John



Saints John


Saints John; Saint John. St. John or St. John's has always 
been a popular and much used name among Freemasons 
and has come to be employed so frequently and in so many 
different ways as even to cause some confusion. There are 
St. John the Baptist, St. John the Evangelist, the Holy Saints 
John, St. John Lodges, St. John Masons, St. John Masonry, 
and St. John Days, to which, of course, are added the many 
lodges with St. John as their proper name.


St. John Lodges and Masons. These names were applied to 
those Masons who had belonged to the Fraternity prior to 
the organization of the premier Grand Lodge and who did 
not affiliate with the new order after 1717. That name seems 
not to have been used in that sense in Scotland and it is not 
certain that it applied to all the Old Masons or lodges in 
England. The Four Old Lodges were not so-called, because 
they were attached to the new Grand Lodge from the first. 
Some name had to be applied to the Masons in England 
whose connection with the Fraternity long antedated the 
admissions of the large number that were entering the 
Society in the 1720's and 1730's. Their legitimacy was not 
questioned, nor was the new regime so different from the old 
as to exclude them from the lodges. They visited the new 
lodges as they desired and their names are found on the 
registers of lodges, sometimes as Old Mason and 
sometimes as St. John Mason. The pre-Grand Lodge lodges 
were nominally Trinitarian Christian in doctrine, while the 
New Grand Lodge adopted a neutral or noncommittal 
position on that subject. There was something about St. 
John or the Saints John in the working of the old lodges so 
that the name came to identify the regular but unaffiliated 
Masons.


Not only the Gothic Constitutions but also the exposed 
rituals which began to be published in 1723 and are 
supposed to display much of the pre-Grand Lodge work, 
emphasized Christian doctrine. The exposure of the 
catechetical rituals began in 1723 with A Mason's 
Examination, which contained the following: "Q. What Lodge 
are you of? A. I am of the Lodge of St. Stephen's." This is 
exceptional; all others to response to similar questions give 
the reply: St. John's. The Grand Mystery of Free-Masons 
Discover'd of 1724 says: "Q. How many Lights? A. Three; a 
Right East, South and West. Q. What do they represent? A. 
The Three Persons, Father Son and Holy Ghost." The Whole 
Institution of Free-Masons Opened of 1725 contains the 
question and answer: "What Lodge are you of? Answer - St. 
John." But the Lights are 12: "Father, Son, Holy Ghost, Sun, 
Moon, Master Mason, Square, Rule, Plum, Line, Mell and 
Cheisal." The Grand Mystery Laid Open of 1726 said: 
"Where sat King John in the morning when he assembled 
the Society? He sat in the East Window of the Temple in a 
Chair of Marble waiting the rising Sun. Where sat he in the 
Evening when he dismissed it? At the West End of the 
Temple in the same Chair waiting the setting Sun. Why was 
St. John called King? Because he was head of all the 
Christian Lodges, and from his superior knowledge of the 
wonderful art of Masonry." The Mystery of Free-Masonry of 
1730 has this: "Q. To what Lodge do you belong? A. The 
Holy Lodge of St. John." Prichard's Masonry Dissected of 
1730 says: "Q. From whence came you? A. From the Holy 
Lodge of St. John's."


Freemasonry has seldom, or for long, been consistent on 
religion and such is illustrated by this early example: 
whereas the Grand Lodge eliminated all Christianity as it 
thought, nevertheless it was organized and held its Annual 
Assembly and Feasts on St. John the Baptist's Day and held 
one of its Quarterly Communications on St. John the 
Evangelist's Day.


The Holy Saints John; Lodge of St. John at Jerusalem. The 
Gothic Legends related back to the building of King 
Solomon's Temple, approximately 1000 years before there 
was a St. John but, nevertheless, the first legendary lodge 
was said to be that of St. John, presumably meaning a lodge 
at Jerusalem dedicated to St. John the Baptist. That St. John 
was the energetic forerunner of Christ and baptized him in 
the River Jordan. In some places St. John the Evangelist, 
also called the Mystic, was deemed more to be revered and 
was substituted. In other places, or most places, it was not 
known which was right and it was not known why there 
should be any necessity for a choice, so that both were 
adopted as the Patron Saints and lodges came to be 
dedicated to the Holy Saints John and were supposed to be 
replicas of some Lodge of the Holy Saints John at 
Jerusalem. 


Since the exposed catechetical rituals are the earliest 
Masonic rituals known and speak only of the St. John's 
Lodge without reference to the Solomonic Lodge presided 
over by the supposed three first Grand Masters, it is 
probable that the Lodge of Solomon and the two Hirams is a 
ritualistic device of later production, possibly arriving at the 
same time or as part of the Legend of Hiram. It is said that 
the first ritualistic reference to the Saints John known in 
America occurs in Webb's Monitor of 1797. In the 18th 
century, it was not unusual for letters and communications 
between lodges to begin: "From the Lodge of the Holy Saints 
John of Jerusalem, under the distinctive name of ___ Lodge 
No. ___ 


St. John as a generic term and as a Lodge Name. The 
name, St. John, came to be used for what is sometimes 
called Ancient Masonry or Pure Masonry or Craft Masonry, 
meaning that which had not been despoiled by innovations, 
particularly those of the high degrees. In the 18th century, 
many lodges, possibly most lodges, had no names, only 
numbers, names often being attached to them by common 
usage. In that way, some lodges were called St. John to 
indicate that they were of the Craft type, working the three 
degrees of St. John Masonry. This did not mean pre-Grand 
Lodge lodges and Masonry as it once had but, just the 
opposite, it meant the regular and ordinary working of lodges 
under the Grand Lodges. Then, having been generally called 
St. John, a lodge might adopt that name. Later writers have 
not always observed that fact and have sometimes assumed 
that a lodge referred to as a St. John's lodge bore that title 
as a proper name. This usage appears in the Constitution of 
the Grand Lodge of Scotland as late as that of 1848, where, 
in Chapter II, it declares that that body practices and 
recognizes no degrees of Masonry but those of Apprentice, 
Fellow Craft, and Master Mason, denominated Saint John's 
Masonry. In its proceedings and declarations, it customarily 
describes itself as working St. John Masonry and, in fact, 
claims to be the only Grand Lodge in the British Isles that 
can make that boast. The working in the United States 
resembles that in Scotland more than it does that in 
England.


St. John has also been frequently adopted as the proper 
name of lodges all over the world. In that sense, there is 
scarcely a jurisdiction that does not have among its older 
lodges at least one and sometimes several named St. John 
or St. John's. The United Grand Lodge of England has 3 of 
them and 3 others with some qualifying words in London 
alone. In the rest of England there are about a score and 
overseas about the same proportion. Scotland has over 50 
St. John lodges in that country and about 10 overseas. 
Indeed, that name seems to be used more than St. 
Andrew's. The comparatively small state of Connecticut has 
5 St. John lodges and in the smaller state of Rhode Island, 
there are two St. John Lodge No. 1, but, fortunately, one is 
located in Providence and the other in Newport.


In the ebb and flow of religion that has characterized the 
Masonic rituals, Christianity was pretty well restored by the 
middle of the 18th century, the Bible and, in the United 
States, the altar being instituted in the lodges and the Point 
within the Circle and the Parallel Lines representing the Holy 
Saints John occupying a regular place in the Preston and 
Webb working. Then, at the Union of 1813 between the two 
Grand Lodges of England (both of which had indulged in 
many innovations), the rituals of the United Grand Lodge 
were revised to eliminate all Christianity and lodges became 
dedicated to King Solomon, though the New Testament was 
retained.