Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Le.gend (The Gender)

Legend, from the Latin word legere, "to read," was a name originally given to portions of Scripture and certain other religious writings, especially the lives of saints and martyrs that were to be read in the services of the early Christian Church. The institution of monasticism caused a vast mass of this literature to be brought forth, much of which was no doubt the work of the imagination. It is ever the tendency of the human mind to enshrine saints and heroes in fable, and give free scope to the feelings and the imagination in picturing their lives and characters, and therefore, notwithstanding the strange inter-mixture of truth and falsehood in these legendary tales, they gradually established themselves in both the eastern and western churches, and in the course of time gained place in the literature of Christian nations. Although the origin of the word "legend" is ecclesiastical, it has come to be applied to any fabulous narrative handed down by tradition.

Masonic legends are not necessarily fictitious, but are either based on actual and historical facts which have been but slightly modified, or they are the offspring of some symbolic idea; in which latter respect they differ entirely from the monastic legends, which often have only the fertile imagination of some studious monk for the basis of their construction. The instruction of Freemasonry are given in two modes: by the symbol and by the legend. The symbol is a material and the legend a mental, representation of truth. The sources of neither can be in every case authentically traced. Many of them come from the old Operative Masons of the medieval guilds. The legends of Freemasonry constitute a considerable and a very important part of its ritual. Without them, its most valuable portions as a scientific system would cease to exist. It is, in fact, in the traditions and legends of Freemasonry, more, even, than in its material symbols, that we are to find the deep instructions which the Institution is intended to inculcate. it must be remembered that Freemasonry has been defined to be "a system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols." Symbols then, alone, do not constitute the whole of the system: allegory comes in for its share; and this allegory, which veils the ultimate truths of Masonry, is presented to the neophyte in the various legends which have been traditionally preserved in the Order.

They may be divided into three classes:

1. The Mythical legend. 2. The Philosophical legend. 3. The Historical legend. And these three classes may be defined as follows:

1. The myth may be engaged in the transmission of a narrative of early deeds with events having a foundation in truth, however, has been greatly distorted and perverted by the omission of introduction of circumstances and personages, and then it constitutes a mythical legend.

2. Or it may have been invented and adopted as the medium of enunciating a particular thought, or of inculcating a certain doctrine, when it becomes a philosophical legend.

3. Or, lastly, the truthful elements of actual history may greatly predominate over the fictitious and invented materials of the myth; and the narrative may be, in the main, made up of facts, with a slight coloring of imagination, when it forms a historical legend.