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But the subject which I am about to broach, and that which I have understood from infancy to form a prominent feature in the inaugural part of Masonry, and that alone which has deterred me from becoming a mason, inflicts pain on the corporeal parts in sad reality.
Whenever a vagrant thought of Masonry has happened to stray across my mind, though ever anxious to be acquainted with it's mysteries, the fear of what I am about to relate harrowed me up even unto shrivelling and stamped an injunction on the idea, which banished from my grasp that knowledge of secrets so delightful to all; for thou must know, that so early as seven years of age, these impressions were engraven upon my mind, and I make no doubt, but that thou art well aware, that whatever seriously arrests our attention, particularly that which puts us in bodily fear, can never be totally erased from our memories.
Few of the sagest philosophers can entirely divest themselves of fear and look with indifference on surrounding dangers and the prejudices of early education. But not to be prolix, a quality which I perfectly eschew, I shall proceed to the subject of inquiry, and thou wilt eventually see what an all powerful instinct is self-preservation.
I was born and brought up at a country village, not above one hundred miles south of the Tweed, a place, by the bye, much infested by that wandering race of people yclept gipsies. Among this detached community, there was one man about thirty five years of age, suspected and I believe not without some reason, of having Asian blood in his veins, a real cosmopolite, or vagabond philosopher, who was looked upon by the country people as being well acquainted with necromancy, the occult sciences, conversant with the magi, and even with the secrets of freemasonry. He also phrenologically favoured these impressions, and his whole demeanour was consonant with the figure which thou mightest picture in thy mind's eye of a magician, a genii or a prophet. This platonic sage, being on one of his peregrinations through our village (West Witton,) espied a man, who was a stranger in the village, upon the top of a house, and, by a mere sign or twist of the fist, made him descend immediately. A very religious old gentleman, being witness to this magic like performance, very properly judged, that, if the electric qualities of this Egyptian's swarthy hand could instantly make a man descend from the top of a house, full two stories high, his services would be inestimable in a land so dreacifully infested with witches and fairies, and therefore engaged him immediately upon the spot as his servant.
Abraham Baxendale, (for that was the name of our hero) upon entering his new situation, was consulted by every one respecting - the weather, when the Bees would swarm, when the eggs wonld be hatched, why the cream could not be churned, who were the fathers of unborn children, when the young girls were to be married, or the married released. No why could be put but he had a wherefore, and in short, was the oracle of the village. A man like this, who was able to disclose futurity, might well be supposed to be acquainted with the mysteries of Freemasonry. He was accordingly questioned upon the subject, and thereby lost his credit, as it was looked upon as the highest degree of apostacy, for a brother to discover the secrets of his craft; but as Abraham was very communicative, he set about the narration immediately, and I well recollect, towards the winding up of the story, he related, in his last clause, that “ every mason, who shall attain the third degree, shall be burnt in the posterior with a cross, as being symbolical of the cross, upon which our blessed saviour died, and if such brothers as have received the HOLY BRAND should, through age or infirmities, forget the grip, or any other inaugural part of masonic ceremony, this shall stand as a note of reference to the end of their lives." Abraham, being very energetic at the moment,“ suited the action to the word,” snatched up an Iron, fashioned after the figure of the holy cross, which had been used in branding sheep, and stuck it into the fire, not a person present (and I formed one of the circle) but clapped his hand upon his breech for immediate defence, and scampered off with gymnastic celerity, to prevent the being made a mason of the third degree. This part of masonry, which has left such terrific impressions upon my mind and has deterred me from entering the holy order, I beg thou wilt make apparent to my weaker understanding, so that I may consistently denounce or embrace an art, which I may say has pied a great deal of my thoughts for upwards of twenty years.
Let me again invoke thee to answer my interrogations, as to whether the burning actually takes place or not, which I firmly hope will set at rest the much agitated mind of thine assured friend.
Note by R. Carlile.--My readers cannot fail to share my amusement in the reading of Ephraim's letter, which I hold up as another proof of the inischief of secret associations like that of Masonry. That and every other kiod of superstition operates upon the mind of the multitude like a blast upon vegetables, scorching some altogether and reducing all to imbecility, or rather, preventing all from rising above imbecility. Two pamphlets have been lately published as Nos. of a work entitled “ The Cat out of the Bag ;” wbich is professedly an exposure of Masonry. If it has any relation to Masonry, it must be to some of those higher or Rosicruciao degrees, which I have not yet fully examined, though in possession of the necessary documents. In this work, the masons, at their initiation into some degrees, are exbi
bited in a state a nudity, with the exception of a small apron, not of fig leaves, as the first Mason and Masoness, Adam and Eve, wore, but of leather: and the master of the ceremonies is represented as operating upon their bums with a red hot poker! I cannot say what fooleries have not been introduced as parts of masonic ceremonies; for, before the union of the wrangling masonic sects in 1813, when limits were placed, the invention of new degrees was the chief d'ouvre of masonry. Like the Christian Religion, it began to shew so many wrangling sects, as to promise its own overthrow. But my present impression is, from all the authorities which I have upon the subject, that Abrabam Baxendale's story about the impression of the cross upon the bum, and the exbibitions in the pamphlets called the “ Cat out of the Bag," are pieces of burlesque upon masonry. I shall develope all for which I have an authority, and nothing but for which I have the authority of real masons. Several new masons, with whom I had no previous correspondence, have assured me of correctness as far as I bave gone and have the satisfaction to find it corroborated by respectable men, who are unknown to each other, and who, therefore, cannot conspire to deceive me or the public.
But Ephraim Smooth seems to retain the impression that Abraham Baxendale bad superhuman powers and seems to think seriously ostbe superiority of Asiatic blood ! Materialism teaches me, that no human being ever had such a power, or any power, over any other buman being,or overany other animal, other than the power of kuowledge, quackery and assurance over ignorance aud fear. I should like to come in contact.with some of these gifted beings, to put tbeir influence to the test ; not doubting but I could lay their powers, as the priests lay spirits, because there is nothing to overcome. The Bible is a book of ignorance and vice that encourages all tbis miscbievous nonsense, and the greatest wickedness that is practised on the face of the earth is, the wickedness of religion. Hear it, Wilberforce, hear it Judge Bailey, hear it, all you who waste your means in Bibles and religious books, you are the vile scum of the earth, you are the vicious and wicked. All other wickedoess is harmlessness itself when compared with yours. Other acts of immorality are generally the ebullitions of passion; but yours is a cold, calculating, studied, tutored wickedness, anxiously sought to be imposed upon all. You shall not succeed, you shall be overthrown. I will show you, with the aid of the few who are of my disposition, that honesty aud virtue, well maintained, will ultimately and speedily overthrow all the powers that wickedness can array against
I am now opposed by the whole government of this country and its influence, by the whole of the aristocracy and its influence, and by the whole of the priesthood and its influence, with many ignorant beings into the scale; but I feel certain of speedy triumph over all and of the total abolition of that vice, religion, in this country. The affair is approacbing a crisis, at wbich the multitude will come over to us and speak out. Distribute your Bibles and your religious books, make every soldier keep a Bible in his knapsack, and every sailor one in his chest, and you will but further my views. Your books are most respected where they are least known: mine are only respected where they are known. This is the point of difference between this the ground work of my triumph.
I shall be glad to be assured that Ephraim Smooth is a Materialist. It is no easy attaiument. Under present modes of education, it requires a deal of knowledge, to be acquired by independent and fearless thought, to become a materialist or atheist.
COPY OF A LETTER SENT TO THE KING,
Dorchester Gaol, August 17, 1825. The neswpapers, which are called ministerial and royal, are beginning to howl like frightened wolves, at the progress of the Mechanics' Institutions: and I claim this as a proof, that these papers constitute and support a wicked institution, that dreads: the light, that totters at the prospect of exposure, of being well known to and understood by, the mass of the people. When I say people, I mean they who are employed, or who have been employed in useful labour. All beyond these form the scum and disease of human society and have no just claim to count as a part of the people.
The Mechanics institutions bave one object and only one--that object is strictly good, unalloyed with a particle of evil;—it is intended and calculated to increase the knowledge of the mass of the people, to make every man a scientific schoolmaster in that circle which he can influence : and whatever obstructs this, whatever, in the present constitution and institutions of society, is affected by it, ought to give way and must be removed. A more pure and more useful institution, than those now formed and forming for Mechanics, never did never can, exist. It is the very
acme of utility, in its relation to human happiness. They are the schools proper for the attainment of the summit of human wisdom in its progressive state. They will not only make mechanics better workmen and more moral men: bnt a scientific knowledge in their different trades will give them that notion of self importance, which they ought to hold, and make them like that work which they have to do, make them follow it closely as a gratification, as well as an urgency to obtain the necessaries of life.
Having been a mechanic and acquainted with some of the London Manufactories, I feel competent to make statements upon this subject. I have marked the fact, and I know that the experience of others will bear me out in the assertion, that, wherever, among a multitude of men employed in a manufactory, any one of them has shewn a taste for scientific research and has applied that research to the improvement of his trade, he has made his way, if his moral qualifications have been good, to a rule in that or a similar concern, either as a foreman and overseer or as a part
Self interest, in any master manufacturer, will not allow bim to let moral and scientific worth in a workman languish unnoticed or uncherished. The object of the Mechanics’ Institutions is to create a multitude of such men. For my part, I would have such an institution in every ready built Church, Chapel or Gaol, if I had your power.
Then, renounce that abominable disgrace, that disgrace even to a king, your patronage of the association of Freemasons, and announce, that you will be practically the grand patron of the Mechanics’Institutions. Not you, not your tools, not they who would make a tool of your name, not all the vile characters who luxuriate in idleness on the produce of the labour of others can check the moral progress of these institutions, in going so far as the power of the useful part of the community can carry them; but you can assist, you have the power, you have the means; to extend them more rapidly; you have but a short period for further life, there is no appearance of a probable change in the form and manner of the government of this country in your life time; do this one really good deed and redeem, in some measure, while you yet live, the errors of the past.
I am, Sir, your prisoner,
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