No. 18 -- The newsletter of The Freemasons Chamber -- February 2001

A rare record:

Bro James Burnes talk on Freemasonry at Poona on 24th June 1847

Bro James Burnes was undoubtedly the man who laid the foundations on which Scottish Freemasonry in India stands today. RW Bro Burnes, was appointed Provincial Grand Master of Western India in 1838 and served till 1850. He was a FRS and a medical officer in the service of the Hon East India Company. The last knight of the Gulphic Order of Hanover created by King William I. Bro Burnes had been initiated in the Scottish Constitution, and as the Masonic historian Gould has written, "Nature had bountifully endowed him with all the qualities required for Masonic administration." Chevalier Burnes, as he was popularly known, did more than any other person of his time to bring Indians into Freemasonry. Though much has been written in Masonic reviews and also political reports of the time, on Dr Burnes’ achievements in Masonry and in building relationships with local rulers in Western India, there is no known record of the writings of the man who is regularly referred to as one of the great scholars of Freemasonry! This issue of "The Freemason" takes immense pleasure in presenting a talk he gave at Lodge St Andrew’s-in-the-East on June 1844. It was discovered in the first Minute Book of the Lodge. The Minute Book, a rarity in itself, being over 150 years old and in perfect condition, is a masterpiece of penmanship. The complete minutes of the Meeting at which Bro Burnes gave his lecture have been reproduced. In a few places it was not possible to decipher what exactly was written. Rather than attempt to second-guess the Secretary or Bro Burnes, the words are marked with queries ???. The transcription follows faithfully the style, spellings and punctuation used in the Minute Book, to give us a feel of the times.

(83 MEETING)Poona Lodge St Andrew’s in the East24th June 1847.

At a meeting held this day to celebrate the Festival of St. John the following Brethren were present.

Br Buchanan Worshipful Master
McCudden Offg Senior Warden
McLean Junior Warden
Br Whittenbury Br Arthurs
" Douse
" Claws
" Anding
" Desantes
" Wakeman
" Knop
" Davidson
" Bragson
" Waite
" Hussey
" Randall
" Markey
" Alexander
" Findlay
and several others.

The Lodge was opened in the 1st or Entered apprentices degree according to ancient form with prayer. The proceedings of last meeting having been read were duly confirmed. It having been intimated to the Worshipful Master of the Lodge that the Right Worshipful the Provincial Grand Master of Western India Br. Burnes K.H. was in waiting without the Entrance of the lodge - he was admitted attended by Br. Sir William Harris P.P.G.M. Br Colonel Campbell and Colonel Boileau as Grand Wardens, Br. Stewart as Grand Secretary and Sword Bearer, Br. Jerome Standard Bearer and Brs. Down and Gibbs as Grand Deacons, and at the particular request of the Worshipful Master Br. Buchanan and members of the Lodge, took the chair, and proceeded to install our Worthy Brother Buchanan who had been re Elected Master, into the chair after which the following Officers were appointed for the Ensuing six months
Br. William Johnston Stewart Senior Warden
" Dowse Junior Warden
Br. Knop Senior Deacon
" McCudden Junior Deacon
" Arthurs Treasurer
" Wakeman Secretary
" Hussey Desantes Steward
" Goler -Inner Guard
" Ainsworth Tyler

After the above Ceremony the Brethren having been seated the Right Worshipful the Provincial Grand Master of Western India addressed the Brethren as follows.-

"I congratulate this Worthy and Worshipful Lodge on the Great success which, under trying circumstances, has attended its career since I had the gratification of erecting and consecrating it in 1844. It has admitted a large number of members into the craft, and it has relieved many of the poor and helpless, while, at the same time, the cordiality which subsists amongst its members, consisting undoubtedly of men of different habits, feelings, and ideas, and the flourishing condition of its financial concerns, clearly show that the system commenced by the lamented Brother Horrocks has been pursued, and that the Lodge had been ruled by the good and trusty Brethren his successors in the spirit of order, harmony, and peace. The present anniversary naturally recalls the interesting event of last St. John's day, when the Brethren assembled to listen to a discourse full of truth and Enlightenment from the Lord Bishop of Bombay, a circumstance honorable to all parties, but quite in accordance with the character of his Lordship, whose humility and kindness in the dignified office which he fills, prove that, tho' not a Mason, he is yet Eminent for Christian and Masonic qualities, which endear him to the Brotherhood.- Nor is the institution, which this excellent and Reverend prelate has thus favoured, unworthy the Countenance of those who, like him have been elevated, by their piety and virtue, to a high and honourable position in the Esteem of men!- Its principles may challenge the minutest scrutiny; its practice and good works have tended greatly to the Civilization and happiness of men. The most Enlightened Governments have supported it; and in our own age and country, the British legislative has sanctioned and promoted its objects. It is the most venerable social institution upon Earth.- and familiar as we are with its history, we cannot contemplate its vast and wondrous antiquity lost in the mist of the remotest times,- its strange and eventful progress thro' the stream of ages; the mighty, tho often silent, Effect it has exercised on society, and its present existence and prosperity without being struck with awe and amazement, and convinced that providence has blessed and fostered it for the good of mankind.- It was atleast one of the depositaries of the most sublime religion and moral truths that were known before the revelation of the Christian faith. No one who has studied history can doubt its connection, or rather identity, with the ancient mysteries of the Hindoos and Egyptians, and others that Emanated from them; or that the Original dim and intent of all these mysteries, in almost every portion of the earth, were to inculcate on the initiated, by ??? ceremonies and emblems, a knowledge of the one great and living God, and to shadow forth, by a succession of trial and ordeals to which he was subjected, and by a series of dramatic imagery, embodying doubtless much of the scientific mechanism which we claim as new, a future state of reward and punishment, thereby showing that the triumph of darkness over light was but for a reason, and encouraging the just and upright man to preserve in well doing, certain that, if trodden down and depreciated here, he will meet with his recompense, the sublime degree of exaltation and reward - hereafter. One of these great doctrines it pleased Heaven to transmit thro' a whole nation; and both of them, by the blessing of Christianity, and the advance of knowledge, are now so universally disseminated and admitted, that it is difficult to believe that they were once known only to a few initiated individuals, onto fairly appreciate the mighty service Free Masonry has conferred on mankind by maintaining them.- But that our order did maintain them from the Earliest ages is beyond question. It is not enough to say that the symbol which I hold in my hand, the Triangle within a circle, which I take as an example, was used by Zoroaster and Pythagoras, six centuries before the birth of Christ, to typify what it represents in this place.- Ages before this era, it had been exhibited in the Pyramids of Egypt, the cave temples of India, the Pagodas of China and Japan, and the grottoes of Scandinavia, to shadow forth as it does here, the increasing eternity - " the circle whose centre is every where, and circumference is no where" - combined with the infinite wisdom, the omnipotent power, and the Glorious Beauty of the Great architect of the Universe, - the light, the mercy, and the truth,- the past, the present, and to come, - the beginning, the middle, and the end, - the creator, preserver, and the Destroyer of all things. Free Masonry has survived the wreck of the ancient mysteries, but unmeasurably more important than symbols, its pure light may be clearly traced throughout them all, and having descended upon us, is, strange and miraculous to say, shown forth by our Brethren of the present day in nearly the same form and allegory by which it was illustrated at Memphis or Heliopolis four thousand years ago !- Corruption overtook the ancient mysteries, and they became foolishness, but nevertheless, the true light did not perish. Amidst the senseless adoration of Beetles, Bulls, and crocodiles, - the worship of the thing formed, instead of him that formed it,- which degrade the Egyptians, there yet stood within the sanctuary at Sois, the mysterious veiled statue, bearing that dread inscription, "I am all that was, all that is, all that will be- and no mortal can withdraw my veil"- ! Prominent above all the colossal and terrific images of men, raised by the superstition and idolatry of the Hindoos from Heroes to be Gods, the Great Three in one, the Trimurty still stood, and stands, as at Elephanta - the Emblem of the attribute of the one mighty and invisible First cause. Within the temple of Diana at Ephesus, there still remained the altar of the unknown God. Amidst the clamour and depravity which came to mark the origins at the shrine of the Grecian Ceres at Eleusis, there was still chanted the sublime hymn of Orpheus containing within itself the whole body of Freemasonry--" Contemplate divine nature, illuminate thy mind, govern thy heart, walk in the path of justice, that the God of Heaven and Earth may be always present to they Eyes: heavenly self Exits, all beings derive their existence from him, he sustains them all; he has never been seen by mortals, and he sees all things." And how did our ancient Brethren teach the doctrines of a life beyond the grave? By an allegory which as I have said, was practised in the religious mysteries of almost every early nation, and in which the recipient had invariably to enact the part of a great and noble being, illustrious in history - ever faithful to his trust,- yet subjected to the most grievous trials, - Even unto death, but finally raised from thence to bliss and Glory, or, in other words, brought from darkness into light.- The legend of the Egyptian mysteries was that of the renowned and heroic King Osiris, betrayed and destroyed by his brother Typhon, entombed within a coffer, but Eventually regenerated in a new form to gladden and Enlighten the land. That of the Phoenicians was the story of the young and beautiful Adonis, placed also, like Osiris in a coffer, murdered by the wild boar, the Emblem of darkness and the evil principle but afterwards ???, to the joy of his mother, and the Glory and fertility of the Earth. Then followed the Greek Fable, taught in the Elysian mysteries of Ceres,- Bacchus torn to pieces by those rude craftsmen the Titans, decently interred thereafter, and finally restored to his pristine life and beauty to fill up the number of the Gods. I take these examples,- leaving my Brethren to draw the inference, - from Mythologies which we were taught at school, and with which we are all familiar. But the same story has been pervaded the Earth from the remotest ages, and initiation into the mysteries was invariably understood to be a figurative death followed by purification and delight. Witness the assassination of Bolder the Good in the tales of the ancient Scandinavians; Similar traditions of the Jews and Zoroastrians, as well as of the Chinese and Japanese, to say nothing of the Well Known Hindoo Fable of the Murder of Ramdeo, the God of love, by Ishwar, his being also Enclosed within a chest, swallowed by a fish, but nevertheless ultimately reexalted to his place in Paradise. An Emblem of this God, conveying the same lessons, as his legend, is, if I mistake not, the Lotus flower, the waterlily, which, born in the Earth, passes through an intervening state and at last, Emerges to the Sun, in the same manner as the Egyptian Osiris was typified by the butterfly, which, issuing from its Chrysalis, may be said to rise from the Tomb, to Glory in the radiant light of day. I am aware that some reverend divines have considered this Masonic legend to apply to the great deluge that Osiris was Noah, his Ark, the Sarcophagus, Etc; and also that the French Philosophers have given it entirely an astronomical signification, under which Osiris, Bacchus, and their prototypes, are held to represent the Sun, Typhon and the Titans, the stormy months of the year, particularly the three Gloomy ones of winter, which obscure his brightness and destroy his power, Etc, but it is not my belief that men would immure themselves in the vast structures of Egypt, or descend into the Cave temples of India, merely to celebrate an historical Event, however marvellous or appalling, or " In it the Warm precincts of the Cheerful day," to brood over, and speculate upon, a familiar astronomical problem, without having also in view the grave, solemn, and significant object which I have described. And Subsidiary to this, doubtless, also, was the instruction communicated to the recipients in the human Arts and Sciences, including architecture, evidently from the stupendous monuments it has left behind, the noblest study and most triumphant effort to the skill and ingenuity of Civilized man in ancient times.- I have gone somewhat into detail, to show the intense interest which attaches to Free Masonry, and in the hope of inducing my Brethren to study more Carefully its history and objects, I leave them to pursue its progress, from the public abolition of the ancient mysteries throughout the Roman Empire, through the Colleges of artisans in the Eternal City, the Pontiff brethren, the splendid Order of the Knights Templars and the architectural fraternities which have left us some of
the most Gorgeous and stately edifies that adorn Europe, down to present times, where we find it in our own country in the Scotch Abbey of Killwinning and can trace it by written records. From its initiations being secret, and from its having required the certain qualification of being clean in hand and pure in heart "innoceus manihus et purus corde," it was doubtless from the first an unpopular institution with Various Classes of men.- We are told that Even at the time when the mysteries had fallen into disrepute, the Execrable Negro was obliged to shrink abashed from the initiation of Eleusis when he heard the herald proclaim his crimes and impurities, and it is possible that it is to him and others of his stamp that we owe the cry, "Honesta publica, - Scelerata Secarta, - Honest things are open, secret things are wicked," which has been echoed and re-echoed against our order, through a succession of ages, by despots, inquisitions, and consistories, without its applicability to it ever being fairly tested. It has Even, I lament to say been maintained by the illustrious statesman who now fills the chair of St Peter, whose expanded and philanthropic views have attracted so much Glory to him, but who, - alas ! for the frailty that besets the noblest amongst us - has recently confirmed those anathemas against Freemasonry, which, in other days, consigned our Brethren to the danger and the faggot, to be struck off as rotten branches in this world, without hope of salvation in the next.-

This outcry against Freemasonry is probably one of the most extraordinary popular delusions on record. As for secrecy, our order has no concealments with which the world has the least concern. Its principles and purposes are open as the noonday, and have been not only a thousand times publically owned, but Even brightly emblazoned on its banners from immemorial time in almost all the languages of the Civilized Globe. "Glory to God on High, Peace on Earth, and good will to men," or as they are Engraven on many of the Badges borne by the Brethren about me " Deo, reg, fratribus, Honor fidelities, benevolentia;"- and that its practise and good deeds have corresponded with its principles, requires not my feeble note to proclaim.- They fill a bright and expanded page in the annuals of our race. If the Brethren occasionally Do good by stealth, and blush to call it fame, Surely this is not to be urged against them. In truth there is nothing hidden in Freemasonry, excepting what pertains exclusively to itself, namely the reception into its mysteries, and the mode by which our Brother may recognize another.- These it is requisite to Guard, for on the principle that the Christian does good to all, but Especially to those of the Household of faith, so does the mason do good to all, but especially to those within the circle of masonry and the latter it is necessary to know. But after all, these can scarcely be called secrets, when it is Considered that they are open to Everyman who seeks them, provided only he can be well and worthily recommended as one who believes in the divine architect of Heaven and of Earth, and who practices the sacred duties of morality.- It is not my purpose now to pursue the subject of the thousand other objections against Free Masonry, again and again refuted, which have Originated in the Prejudices of later times, but some of them have recently been reagitated here with so much acrimony that I may be pardoned for bestowing on them a passing notice. They would point at our order being an unchristian institution, and at its tendency being so selfish and exclusive as to withdraw men from the proper execution of their public and domestic duties. Free Masonry is certainly not of Christian origin, any more than are the arts and Sciences, which are so essential to our comfort, happiness, and Even existence; and I have shown that it prevailed ages before the birth of our Redeemer. But if by unchristian is meant anti- Christian, I hesitatingly repudiate the uncharitable Calumny, advanced, as it is, with the full knowledge that many of the most pious, consistent, and exemplary members of the Christian Church are zealous and devoted Brethren. In truth from the very principles of Freemasonry, it completely amalgamates with our faith, and the Bible accordingly is never closed in a lodge of Christians. The deep solemnity of the question involved in this objection has enabled me to give it a grave reply, but it is difficult to treat the others with consideration. Can it be possible, however, I would ask, that, in an Educated Society, people would Ever dream that the heroic soldier who commands this place,- declared to be the bravest of the brave, - would lead his charge with less intrepidity because he is a mason; or that the distinguished Brother on my left had fulfilled his sovereign's behest, in the important missions in which he has been deputed, with less fidelity and zeal because he was an honored and Exalted dignatory of the Masonic craft - or, - to bring the absurdity to a climax, that the worthy brother on my right, would, in the most remote degree, neglect his family interests, because he fills the chair of this respected Lodge. Yet such are the tame aspersions with which our order is now assailed - such the feeble frivolities which have succeeded to the persecutions of other days. Thro those Persecutions it came unscathed, - Thousand of years have swept over it in vain since it saw the light, the mightiest Empires have passed away; myriads of human beings have perished, Even the religions, languages, habits, and ideas of men have almost totally changed, yet still it flourishes, and being based on the noblest and most generous principles that can animate the breast of man, principles which admit of no cavil or dispute, and which everyone can practice for good doubtless it will flourish, as indestructible as the heroes of its own legends, Osiris, Adonis, and others whom I need not name".-

It was then proposed by the Senior Warden Br. Stuart, and seconded by the Worshipful Master that the Right Worshipful Br. Burns be asked to favour the Lodge with the address in writing to be Embodied in the Proceedings of the Lodge, as a most valuable document, which was most readily acceded to.

Proposed by the Right Worshipful Br. Burns and Seconded by Br. Buchanan that Br. Gibbs be admitted as a member of this Lodge.-

Proposed by the Rt Worshipful the Provincial Grand Master Br. Burns and Seconded by the Worshipful Master Br Buchanan that a jewel be presented to Br. Whittenbury for his zeal and activity during the period he was Secretary of the lodge.-

There being no other business before the Lodge The whole of the Brethren to the number of 50 passed into the adjoining Rooms to partake of refreshments.-

Wakeman Secretary.

Editorial Board: Bro Tofique Fatehi, Bro Ahmed Bharucha, Bro Larry Grant.
Published for The Freemasons Chamber by Larry Grant, Post Box 1610, Mumbai 400001, India
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