Vol. XXXIII No. 5 — May 1955

True Masonic Chart

Under this title; further elaborated as an “Hieroglyphic Monitor,” in 1819, Jeremy L. Cross published a book that was to have — and still has — a great effect upon the teaching of the degrees to initiates, Fellowcrafts, and newly-raised Master Masons.

Prior to Cross all such instruction was verbal. The exoteric work had been printed by Thomas Smith Webb, but it was still “mouth to ear” instruction for candidates.

Masonic chart No. 1 Masonic chart No. 2

Cross added eye-appeal, and by the illustrations in his quaint old book immediately provided new and essential memory aids for officers and candidates alike. These illustrations — some of which are herein reproduced — were the work of one Amos Doolittle, of Connecticut (See “The Doolittle Pictures,” Short Talk Bulletin of September 1936.)

Doubtless the principal claim to fame of Jeremy Cross lies in the work he did with Cryptic Masonry, Royal and Select Masters. This Bulletin has not the space to mention more than that fact.

But for symbolic Masons, Cross began a practice that has been not only effective but important; that of associating pictures with words in the mind; of coupling together of lectures heard, with drawings and/or paintings seen on the “masters carpet” or lodge chart, or, more modernly, upon a wall or screen, projected by a “magic lantern” or other apparatus capable of forming images of light upon a flat surface.

Masonic chart No. 3 Masonic chart No. 4

Before Cross, every initiate formed his own conception of the several emblems either in his imagination or from what he had seen during the ceremonies. But there was much that the ceremonies did not show— then, as now, there was in the lodge no Anchor and Ark, no Coffin, no Beehive, no Three Grand Columns, no Jacob’s Ladder, no “high hills and low vales,” etc. Of these the recipient of degrees had to form his own conceptions. For men of little imagination, for those not much acquainted with pictorial representations, this must have been difficult.

Jeremy L. Cross was not a man of great imagination, originality or even education. That he was a devoted, sincere and reverent Mason is obvious from his pages.

He was born in 1783, Haverhill, New Hampshire, and there he died in 1861. Made a Mason in 1808, he eventually became a pupil of Thomas Smith Webb, famous not only in Rhode Island but everywhere for his labors in adapting the English book Illustrations of Masonry (William Preston) to American ideas and practices, and the indefatigable way in which he taught his version of the ritual that had reached this country both through Prestons printed words and by word of mouth.

An American book for American Masons was badly needed; Webb supplied the need. That is Webb’s monument. It was no mere tentative offering; Webb so believed in what he did that he went out of his way to teach it, preach it, fight for it, memorize it, make others memorize it. Freemasonry in early days had little if any unity in work. While the essentials were the same, the variations were enormous, and Ancient and Modern, Scottish and Irish, English and local “work” was a hodgepodge throughout the colonies.

Webb and his labors brought, to some extent, order. The esoteric work of all American jurisdictions differs—between some but little, between others, much. But the printed work is markedly similar in a majority of our jurisdictions. Webb was clever enough to see the need of simplicity, poet enough not to alter old phraseology when it would serve his purpose, scholar enough to weave a thread of continuity.

It is curious—perhaps pathetic — that Webb died in 1819, at the same time (nearly) that Cross published the True Masonic Chart.

Masonic chart No. 5 Masonic chart No. 6

Cross is as much Webb as Webb is Preston. Neither originated much. Both began an American system that has persisted to this day, and to both are we indebted for those many points in which American ritual is similar if not identical in our forty-nine jurisdictions. The variations are practically all in the strictly “mouth-to-ear” tradition; the similarities are all either Webb or Cross or both.

This is not the place to examine critically the "Marble Monument” emblem in the Master Mason Degree, which many believe was originated by Webb and Cross and Doolittle, first pictured by the Connecticut engraver, illustrator of the True Masonic Chart.

Pages have been written about it; learned pundits have discussed it; controversies have raged over it. Did Jeremy Cross invent it? Did Amos Doolittle suggest it? The evidence is in favor of the fact that neither introduced the idea of the monument in Freemasonry, although some credit one or the other, or both, with the broken column. Regardless of who originally conceived the idea that a monument to the historic dead should necessarily be a part of the Master’s Degree, there is no question that Cross’s monument, Time with his scythe, counting the virgin’s hairs, the urn, the open book, the broken column, were all combined by Doolittle into a drawing that, however poor from the standpoint of the artists of today, had enduring vitality.

Preston, Webb, Cross are long, long from the Masonic scene. Except among students, Doolittle is little known to American Masons.

Yet their combined influence is probably greater, as far as results are concerned, than those of any other triumvirate of Masons whose labors helped to build the American Masonic system.

In these pages are reproductions of some of these old drawings. It is hoped that those who will honor them by their attention will muse with pleasure on the works of these, our old brethren who did so much, and find in the quaintness and even the crudeness of these drawings something of the perfume and the simplicity of the formative years of American Freemasonry.

Question Box

This column will attempt to answer questions about Freemasonry

Why does the ritual use so many repetitions, as in “duly and truly,” “worthy and well-qualified,” etc.?

Several “word-pairs’ in Masonic ritual make interesting studies; "duly and truly,” “worthy and well-qualified,” “free will and accord,” "parts and points,” “hele and conceal.” At first glance it may seem that these are so arranged only for emphasis. In Middle English writing, especially in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, when Freemasonry was in the process of formation, England had two languages. One was Norman French, the other Anglo-Saxon. To make sure of understanding, word pairs were much in use, a word of similar meaning being taken from each language.

The apparent redundancy of expression in a number of places in Masonic ritual may be traced back to these Middle Ages. The perpetuation of such usage now, when clarity of thought and understanding might be served as well with one word, is one of many proofs that Freemasonry delights to cling to the ancient and venerated because it is venerated and ancient.

Why has Symbolic Masonry three degrees only and not four or seven or a larger number, as have other branches of the Fraternity?

Three is the numerical symbol of the equilateral triangle, which is man’s earliest symbol of God. It was the “most sacred number” at the dawn of civilization. Masonry emphasizes it: three degrees, three circumam- bulations in the Third Degree, three great lights, three lesser lights, three steps on the master’s carpet, three fellows who stood at the gates of the temple, three who discovered the master workman, three principal rounds, three grand columns, etc.

Evidently the ritual makers of an early age believed that there should be a symbolism of number as well as of object in the teaching of Masonry regarding the Fatherhood of God, to instruct that He is present at all times in every ceremony and meeting.

The Masonic Service Association of North America