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Title: The Masonic Enlightenment: Symbolism, Transition and Change in English Freemasonry during the Eighteenth Century
Author: Harrison, David
ISNI:       0000 0001 3538 7127
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 2007
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This study investigates the transitional phases of English Freemasonry from the midseventeenth century into what can be described as a Masonic Enlightenment during the eighteenth century. This movement was part of a wider enterprising evolution led by the Newtonian experimental natural philosopher Dr. John Theophilus Desaguliers and James Anderson, both members of the London based Grand Lodge founded in 1717 and both staunch Hanoverians. The ritual, along with the accompanying Masonic symbolism, quickly became adopted into what would become known as 'Modem' Freemasonry, which spread its influence around England. One of the aims of this thesis is to assess why it was embraced by some areas, yet rejected by others, such as York. Scholarship to date has avoided analysis of the Masonic ritual, with Freemasonry being seen as a secret society, and many of the original documentation relating to Masonic lodges being held in private collections. The United Grand Lodge of England has only recently opened its 'archive and library to the public, though this has only revealed how much documentary material has either been lost or destroyed. An example of this is the absence of personal correspondence relating to Desaguliers' Masonic ritual changes, despite the evidence that changes where made by him. An objective of this dissertation is to examine why the development of 'Modem' Freemasonry was so successful, and why Desaguliers, and other members ofthe Royal Society were attracted to the Craft. The study will also assess the fermentation of Freemasonry as it transmuted from the 'operative' society into 'a more 'speculative' one during the seventeenth century. Precious little academic work has been published on this aspect of the society, and this study will analyse the contributions of Christopher Wren and Isaac Newton on the development of the Craft, concentrating on their emphasis upon the search for the divine measurement of Solomon's Temple. The later changes to the Masonic ritual reflected their work, displaying themes for the search of lost ancient knowledge set against the backdrop of the construction of Solomon's Temple. In this Masonic quest the ethos ofFreemasonry became shaped by fashionable and attractive concepts ofthe 'New Science' merging with the 'Old Science' of magic and alchemy. These concepts which became appealing in the light ofthe social and political atmosphere of the Whig Oligarchy of early eighteenth century England, will also be discussed, the study concluding with an examination of the overall contribution of the Masonic Enlightenment on English society.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available