The Book of Constitutions of the Grand Lodge of England (Antients), named by Dermott. The book was created in the mid-18th Century. Also the name used by many American Grand Lodges today for their Book of Constitution.
– Source: Masonicdictionary.com
The title given by Dermott to the Book of Constitutions of the Grand Lodge of Ancient Freemasons in England, which was established about the middle of the eighteenth century in opposition to the legitimate Grand Lodge and its adherents who were called the Moderns, and whose code of laws was contained in Anderson’s work known as the Book of Constitutions. Many attempts have been made to explain the significance of this title ; thus according to Doctor Mackey, it is derived from three Hebrew words, zhiln, meaning brothers; ..manah, to appoint, or to select in the sense of being placed in a peculiar class (see Isaiah liii, 12), and ..ratzon, the will, pleasure, or meaning; and hence the combination of the three words in the title, Ahiman Rezon, signifies the will of selected Brethren- the law of a class or society of men who are chosen or selected from the rest of the world as Brethren.
Doctor Dalcho (Ahiman Rezon of South Carolina, page 159, second edition) derives it from ahi, a brother, manah, to prepare, and rezon, secret, so that, as he says, ” Abiman Rezon literally means the secrets of a prepared brother.” But the best meaning of manah is that which conveys the idea of being placed in or appointed to a certain, exclusive class, as we find in Isaiah liii, 12 “he was numbered (nimenah) with the transgressors,” placed in that class, being taken out of every other order of men. Although rezon may come from ratzon, a will or law, it can hardly be elected by any rules of etymology out of the Chaldee word raz, meaning a secret, the termination in on being wanting; and furthermore the book called the Ahiman Rezon does not contain the secrets, but only the public laws of Freemasonry. The derivation of Dalcho seems therefore inadmissible.
Not less so is that of Brother W. S. Rockwell, who as recorded in the Ahiman Rezon of Georgia (1859, page 3) thinks the derivation may be found in the Hebrew, … amun, meaning a builder or architect and .., rezon, as a noun, prince, and as an adjective, royal, and hence, Ahiman Rezon, according to this etymology, wifl signify the royal builder, or, symbolically, the Freemason. But to derive ahiman from amun, or rather amon, which is the masoretic pronunciation, is to place all known laws of etymology at defiance. Rockwell himself, however, furnishes the best argument against his strained derivation, when he admits that its correctness will depend on the antiquity of the phrase, which he acknowledges that he doubts. In this, he is right. The phrase is altogether a modern one, and has Dermott, the author of the first work bearing the title, for its inventor.
Rockwell’s conjectural derivation is, therefore, for this reason still more inadmissible than Dalcho’s.
But the most satisfactory explanation is as follows: In his prefatory address to the reader, Dermott narrates a dream of his in which the four men appointed by Salomon to be porters at the Tempel (First Chronicles ix, 17 ) appear to him sojourners from Jerusalem, and he tells them that he is writing a history of Freemasonry; upon which, one of the four, named Ahiman, says that no such history has ever yet been composed and suggests that it never can be.
It is clear, therefore, that the first word of the title is the name of this personage. What then does Rezon signify? Now the Geneva or Breeches Bible, publishes in 1560 contains a table giving the meanings of the Bible names and explains Ahiman as a prepared brother or brother of the right hand and Rezon as a secretary, so that the title of the book would mean Brother Secretary. That Dermott used the Geneva Bible is plain from the fact that he quotes from it in his address to the reader, and therefore it may fairly be assumed that he selected these names to suit his purpose from the list given in it, especially as he styles himself on his title-page merely Secretary.
The first Book of Masonic Law published by the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania was entitled: Ahiman Rezon abridged and digested: as a Help to atilt are or would be Free and Accepted Masons. It was prepared by the Grand Secretary, the Rev. Brother William Smith, D.D., Provost of the University of Pennsylvania, and was almost entirely a reprint of Dermott’s work; it was approved by the Grand Lodge November 22, 1781, published in, 1783, and dedicated to Brother George Washington. It is reprinted in the introduction to the first or edited reprint of the Proceedings of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, 1730-l808. On April 18, 1825, a revision of the Ahiman Rezon was adopted, being taken largely from Anderson’s Constitutions.
In the 1919 edition (page 210) are these comments: “The revision of 1825 contains the following as the definition of the words Ahiman Rezon: The Book of Constitutions is usually denominated Ahiman Rezon. The literal translation of Ahiman is A prepared Brother, from manah, to prepare, and Rezon, secret; so that Ahiman Rezon literally means, the secrets of a prepared Brother. It is likewise supposed to be a corruption of Achi Man Ratzon, the thoughts or opinions of a true and faithful Brother. As the Ahiman Rezon is not a secret, but a published book, and the above definition has been omitted from subsequent revisions of the book, the words were submitted to Hebrew scholars for translation upon the assumption that they are of Hebrew origin. The words however are not Hebrew.
“Subsequent inquiry leads to the belief that they come from the Spanish, and are thus interpreted: Ahi, which is pronounced Ah-ee, is demonstrative and means there, as if pointing to a thing or place; man may be considered a form of monta, which means the account, amount, sum total, or fullness; while razon or rezon means reason, principle, or justice, the word justice being used in the sense of law. If, therefore, we ascribe the words himan Rezon to Spanish origin, their meaning is-There is the full account of the law.”
But the history of the origin of the book is more important and more interesting than the history of the derivation of its title.
The premier Grand Lodge of England was established in 1717 and ruled the Freemasons of London and the South of England without opposition until in 1751 when some Irish Freemasons established another body in London. This organization professed to work “according to the old institutions,” and the Brethren called themselves Ancient Freemasons and the members of the older Grand Lodge.
Moderns, maintaining that they alone preserved the ancient usage of Freemasonry. The former of these contending bodies, the Grand Lodge of England, had, In the year 1722, caused Dr. James Anderson to collect and compile all the Statutes and Regulations by which the Fraternity had in former times been governed. These, after having been submitted to due revision, were published in 1723, by Anderson, with the title of The Constitutions of the Freemasons. This work, of which several other edit out subsequently appeared, has always been called the Book of Constitutions, and contains the foundations of the written law by which the Grand Lodge if England and the Lodges deriving from it, both in that country and in America, are governed.
But when the Irish Freemasons established their rival Grand Lodge, they found it necessary, also, to have a Book of Constitutions. Accordingly, Laurence Dermott, who was at one time their Grand Secretary, and afterward their Deputy Grand Master, compiled such a work, the first edition of which was published by James Bedford, at London, in 1756, with the following title: Ahiman Rezon: or a Help to a Brother; showing the Excellency of Secrecy, and the first cause or motive of the Institution of Masonry; the Principles of the Craft; and the Benefits from a strict Observance thereof, etc., etc. ; also the Old and New Regulations, etc. To which is added the greatest collection of Masons’ Songs, etc. By Bro. Laurence Dermott, Secretary.
A second edition was published in 1764 with this title : Ahiman Rezon: or a help to all that are or would be Free and Accepted Masons; containing the Quintessence of all that has been published on the subject of Freemasonry, with many Additions, which renders this Work more useful than any other Book of Constitution now extant. By Lau. Dermott, Secretary. London, 1764. A third edition was published in 1778, with the following title: Ahiman Rezon: or a Help to all that are or would be Free and Accepted Masons (with many Additions). By Lau. Dermott, D.G.M. Printed for James Jones, Grand Secretary; and sold by Peter Shatwell, in the Strand. London, 1778.
Five other edit out were published: the fourth, in 1778; the fifth in 1787 ; the sixth in 1800 ; the seventh in 1801; the eighth in 1807, and the ninth in 1813.
In this year, the Ancient Grand Lodge was dissolved by the union of the two Grand Lodges of England, and a new Book of Constitutions having been adopted for the united body, the Ahiman Rezon became useless, and no subsequent edition was ever published.
The earlier edit out of this work are among the rarest of Masonic publications, and are highly prized by collectors.
In the year 1855, Leon Hyneman, of Philadelphia, who was engaged in a reprint of old standard Masonic works, an enterprise which should have received better patronage than it did, republished the second edition, with a few explanatory notes.
As this book contains those principles of Masonic law by which, over three-fourths of a century, a large and intelligent portion of the Craft was governed; and as it is now becoming rare and, to the generality of readers, inaccessible, some brief review of its contents may not be uninteresting. In the preface or address to the reader, Dermott pokes fun at the history of Freemasonry as written by Doctor Anderson and others, and wittily explains the reason why he has not published a history of Freemasonry.
There is next a Philacteri for such Gentlemen as may be inclined to become Freemasons. This article, which was not in the first edition, but appeared for the first time in the second, consists of directions as to the method to be pursued by one who desires to be made a Freemason. This is followed by an account of what Dermott calls Modern Masonry, that is, the system pursued by the original Grand Lodge of England, and of the differences existing between it and Ancient Masonry, or the system of his own Grand Lodge. He contends that there are material differences between the two systems; that of the Ancient being universal, and that of the Moderns not; a Modern being able with safety to communicate all his secrets to an Ancient, while an Ancient cannot communicate his to a Modern; a Modem having no right to be called free and accepted; all of which, in his opinion, show that the Ancient have secrets which are not in the possession of the Moderns. This, he considers, a convincing proof that the Modern Freemasons were innovators upon the established system, and had instituted their Lodges and framed their ritual without a sufficient knowledge of the arcana of the Craft. But the Modern Freemasons with more semblance of truth, thought that the additional secrets oi the Ancient were only innovations that they had made upon the true body of Freemasonry; and hence, they considered their ignorance of these newly invented secrets was the best evidence of their own superior antiquity. In the later editions Dermott has published the famous Leland Manuscript, together with the commentaries of Locke; also the resolutions adopted in 1772, by which the Grand Lodges of Ireland and Scotland agreed to maintain a “Brotherly Connexion and correspondence” with the Grand Lodge of England (Ancient).
The Ahiman Rezon proper, then, begins with twenty-three pages of an encomium on Freemasonry, and an explanation of its principles. Many a modem Masonic address is better written, and contains more important and instructive matter than this prefatory discourse.
Then follow The Old Charges of the Free and Accepted Masons, taken from the 1738 edition of Anderson’s Constitutions. Next come A short charge to a new admitted Mason, The Ancient manner of constituting a Lodge, a few prayers, and then the General Regulations of the Free and Accepted Masons. These are borrowed mainly from the second edition of Anderson with a few alterations and additions. After a comparison of the Dublin and London Regulations for charity, the rest of the book, comprising more than a hundred pages, consists of A collection of Masons Songs, of the poetical merits of which the less said the better for the literary reputation of the writers.
Imperfect, however, as was this work, it for a long time constituted the statute book of the Ancient Masons. Hence those Lodges in America which derived their authority from the Dermott or Ancient Grand Lodge of England, accepted its contents as a true exposition of Masonic law. Several of their Grand Lodges caused similar works to be compiled for their own government, adopting the title of Ahiman Rezon, which thus became the peculiar designation of the volume which contained the fundamental law of the Ancient, while the original title of Book of Constitutions continued to be retained by the Moderns, to designate the volume used by them for the same purpose .
Of the Ahiman Rezons compiled and published in America, the following are the principal:
Ahiman Rezon abridged and digested; as a help to all that are or would be Free and Accepted Masons, etc. Published by order of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania; by William Smith, D.D. Philadelphia, 1783. A new Ahiman Rezon was published by the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania in 1825.
Charges and Regulations of the Ancient and Honorable Society of Free and Accepted Masons, extracted from the Ahiman Rezon, etc. Published by the consent and direction of the Grand Lodge of Nova Scotia. Halivax, 1786.
The New Ahiman Rezon, containing the Laws and Constitution of Virginia, etc. By John K. Reade, present Deputy Grand Master of Virginia, etc. Richmond, 1791. Another edition was published in 1818, by James Henderson.
The Maryland Ahiman Rezon of Free and Accepted Masons, containing the History of Masonry from the establishment of the Grand Lodge to the present time; with their Ancient Charges, Addresses, Prayers, Lectures, Prologues, Epilogues, Songs, etc., collected from the Old Records, Faithful Traditions and Lodge Books; by G. Keating. Compiled by order of the Grand Lodge of Maryland. Baltimore, 1797.
The Ahiman Rezon and Masonic Ritual, published by the order of the Grand Lodge of North Carolina and Tennessee. Newbern, North Carolina, 1805.
An Ahiman Rezon, for the use of the Grand Lodge of South Carolina, Ancient York Masons, and the Lodges under the Register and Masonic Jurisdiction thereof. Compiled and arranged with considerable additions, at the request of ‘the Grand Lodge, and published by their authority. By Brother Frederick Dalcho, M.D., etc. Charleston, South Carolina, 1807. A second edition was published by the same author, in 1822, and a third, in 1852, by Dr. Gilbert G. Mackey. In this third edition, the title was changed to that of The Ahiman Rezon, or Book of Constitutions, etc. Furthermore, the Work was in a great measure purged of the peculiarities of Dermott, and made to conform more closely to the Andersonian Constitutions. A fourth edition. Was published by the same editor, in 1871, from which everything antagonistic to the original Book of Constitutions has been omitted.
The Freemason’s Library and General Ahiman Rezon ; containing a delineation of the true principles of Freemasonry, etc.; by Samuel Cole. Baltimore, 1817. 8vo, 332 + 92 pages. There was a second edition in 1826.
Ahiman Rezon; prepared under the direction of the Grand Lodge of Georgia; by Wm. S. Rockwell, Grand Master of Masons of Georgia. Savannah, 1859. 4to and 8vo, 404 pages. But neither this work nor the third and fourth edition of the Ahiman Rezon of South Carolina had any connection in principle or theory with the Ahiman Rezon of Dermott. They have borrowed the name from the Ancient Freemasons. but they derive all their law aud their authorities from the Moderns, or, as Doctor Mackey preferred to Call them, the legal Freemasons of the last century.
The General Ahiman Rezon and Freemason’s Guild, by Daniel Sickles. New York, 1866. 8vo, 408 . Pages. This book, like Rockwell’s, has no other connection with the work of Dermott but the name.
Many of the Grand Lodges of the United States having derived their existence and authority from the Dermott Grand Lodge, the influence of his Ahiman Rezon was for a long time exercised over the Lodges of this country. Indeed, it is only within a comparatively recent period that the true principles of Masonic law, as expounded in the first editions of Anderson’s Constitutions, have been universally adopted among American Freemasons.
However, it must be observed, in justice to Dermott, who has been rather too grossly abused by Mitchell and a few other writers, that the innovations upon the old laws of Freemasonry, which are to be found in the Ahiman Rezon, are for the most part not to be charged upon him, but upon Doctor Anderson himself, who, for the first time, introduced them into the second edition of the Book of Constitutions, published in 1738. It is surprising, and accountable only on the ground of sheer carelessness on the part of the supervising committee, that the Grand Lodge should, in 1738, have approved of these alterations made by Anderson, and still more surprising that it was not until 1756 that a new or third edition of the Constitutions should have been published, in which these alterations of 1738 were expunged, and the old regulations and the old language restored. But whatever may have been the causes of this oversight, it is not to be doubted that, at the time of the formation of the Grand Lodge of the Ancient, the edition of the Book of Constitutions of 1738 was considered as the authorized exponent of Masonic law by the earlier, or, as Doctor Mackey would say, the original or regular Grand Lodge of England, and was adopted, with but little change, by Dermott as the basis of his Ahiman Rezon. How much this edition of 1738 differed from that of 1723, which is now considered the only true authority for ancient law, and how much it agreed with Dermott’s Ahiman Rezon, will he evident from the following specimens of the first of the Old Charges, correctly taken from each of the three works:
First of the Old Charges in the Book of Constitutions, edition of 1723:
“A Mason is obliged by his tenure to obey the moral law; and if he rightly understands the Art, he will never be a stupid Atheist, nor an irreligious libertine. But though in ancient times Masons were charged, in every country, to be of the religion of that country or nation, whatever it was, yet it is now thought more expedient only to oblige them to that religion in which all men agree, leaving their particular opinions to themselves; that is to be good men and true, or men of honor aud honesty, by whatever denominations or persuasions they may be distinguished; whereby Masonry becomes the center of union, and the means of conciliating true friendship among persons that must have remained at a perpetual distance.”
First of the Old Charges in the Book of Constitutions, edition of 1738:
“A Mason is obliged by his tenure to observe the moral law, as a true Noach.ida; and if he rightly understands the Craft, he will never be a stupid Atheist, nor an irreligious libertine, nor act against conscience.
“In Ancient times, the Christian Masons were charged to comply with the Christian usages of each country where they traveled or worked. But Masonry being found in all nations, even of divers religions, they are now only charged to adhere to that religion in which all men agree (leaving each Brother to his own particular opinions; that is, to be good men and true, men of honor and honesty, by whatever names, religions, or persuasions they may be distinguished; for they all agree in the three great articles of Noah enough to preserve the cement of the Lodge. Thus, Masonry is the center of their union, and the happy means of conciliating persons that otherwise must have remained at a perpetual distance.”
First of the Old Charges in Dermott’s Ahiman Rezon:
“A Mason is obliged by his tenure to observe the moral law, as a true Noachido ; and if he rightly understands the Craft, he will never be a stupid Atheist, nor an irreligious libertine, nor act against conscience.
“In Ancient times, the Christian Masons were charged to comply with the Christian usages of each country where they traveled or worked; being found in all nations, even of divers religions.
“They are generally charged to adhere to that religion in which all men agree (leaving each brother to his own particular opinions) ; that is, to be good men and true, men of honor and honesty, by whatever names religions, or persuasions they may be distinguished; for they all agree in the three great article of Noah enough to preserve the cement of the Lodge.
“Thus, Masonry is the center of their union, and the happy means of conciliating persons that otherwise must have remained at a perpetual distance. ”
The italics in the second and third extracts will show what innovations Anderson made in 1738 on the Charges as originally published in 1723, and how closely Dermott followed him in adopting these changes. There is, in fact, much less difference between the Ahiman Rezon of Dermott and Anderson’s edition of the Book of Constitutions, printed in 1738, than there is between the latter and the first edition of the Constitutions, printed in 1723. But the great points of difference between the “Ancient” and the “Moderns,” points which kept them apart for so many years, are to be found in their work and ritual, for an account of which the reader is referred to the article Ancient Freemasons.
– Source: Mackey’s Encyclopedia of Freemasonry
A Help To A Brother
Showing the excellency of secrecy, the principles of the craft And the Benefits arising from a strict Observance thereof.
What sort of Men ought to be initiated into the Mystery, and what sort of Masons are fit to govern lo with their Brethren in and out of the Lodge. Likewise the prayers unfed in the Jewish and Christian Lodges, the Ancient Manner of Constituting new Lodges, with all the Charges, Etc.
Also the old and new Regulations. The Manner of Chufing and Installing Grand-Master and Officers, and other useful Particulars too numerous here to mention. To which is added, The Greatest Collection of Masons Songs ever presented to public view, with many entertaining Prologues and Epilogues.
Together with, Solomon’s Temple and Oratorio as it was performed for the benefit of Freemasons by Brother Laurence Dermott, Sec.
According to”The Builders,” at one time or another, eight American Grand Jurisdictions have used the words as a title to their Books of Law; Georgia, Maryland, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.
Two still retain the old title; Pennsylvania and South Carolina. Georgia now has”Masonic Manual and Code;” Maryland,”Constitutions, By-Laws and Standing Orders;” New York,”Book of Constitutions;” North Carolina,”Code,” also named”Constitution and Regulations;” Tennessee,”Masonic Code;” and Virginia, the”Text Book,” commonly referred to as the”Methodical Digest.”
Pennsylvania’s Ahiman Rezon contains the following:
SECTION XII – HISTORICAL NOTES – AHIMAN REZON.
The first Masonic book published in America was printed in Philadelphia by Brother Benjamin Franklin in 1734. It was a reprint of what is known as”Anderson’s Constitutions,” which was published in 1723 under the authority of the Grand Lodge of England, and entitled:”The Constitutions of the Freemasons. Containing the History, Charges, Regulations, &c., of the Most ancient and Right Worshipful Fraternity. For the use of the Lodges,” and was compiled by Brother James Anderson, D.D. This reprint is now very scarce. A copy of it is in the Library of the Grand Lodge.
The”Ahiman Rezon; A Help to a Brother,” was prepared in 1756 by Brother James Dermott, Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of England According To The Old Institutions,” once called the”Ancients.” This corresponded to the Book of Constitutions of the Grand Lodge of England, once called the”Moderns.”
The first Book of Masonic law published by the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania was entitled:”Ahiman Rezon abridged and digested” as a help to all that are or would be Free and Accepted Masons.” It was prepared by the Grand Secretary, Rev. Brother William Smith, D.D., Provost of the University of Pennsylvania, and was almost entirely a reprint of Dermott’s work; it was approved by the Grand Lodge November 22, 1781, published in 1783, and dedicated to Brother George Washington.
It is reprinted in the introduction to the first or edited reprint of the Proceedings of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, 1730-1808. (See the Library, p 201.)
On April 18, 1825, a revision of the Ahiman Rezon was adopted, being taken largely from”Anderson’s Constitutions.”
Another revision was adopted June 15, 1857, which was followed by the revisions adopted June 15, 1867, December 5, 1877, December 6, 1893, December 4, 1895 and December 1, 1915. The revision of 1825 contains the following as the definition of the words Ahiman Rezon:
�The Book of Constitutions is usually denominated Ahiman Rezon. The literal translation of”Ahmian” is a”Prepared Brother’,” from”Manah” to”Prepare,” and”Rezon”,”Secret;” so that”Ahiman Rezon” literally means, the secrets of a Prepared Brother. It is likewise supposed to be a corruption of”Achi man Ratzon,” the thoughts and opinions of a true and faithful Brother.”
As the Ahiman Rezon is not a secret. but a published book, and the above definition has been omitted from subsequent revisions of the book, the words were submitted to Hebrew scholars for translation upon the assumption that they are of Hebrew origin. The words, however, are not Hebrew.
Subsequent inquiry leads to the belief that they come from the Spanish, and are thus interpreted:”Ahi” (which is pronounced”Ahee”), is demonstrative and means”there,” as if pointing to a thing or place;”Man” may be considered a form of”Monta,” which means the”Account, amount, sum total,” or”Fullness;” while”Razon” (or Rezon) means”Reason, Principle,” or”Justice,” the word justice being used in the sense of law. If, therefore, we ascribe the words”Ahiman Rezon” to Spanish origin, their meaning is -“There is the full account of the law.”
South Carolina’s Ahiman Rezon, under”Masonic Definitions,” states:”The Book of Constitution of the Grand Lodge of South Carolina is also called the Ahiman Rezon. The title is derived from three Hebrew words,”ahim,” brothers;”manah,” to appoint or select; and”ratzon,” the will or law; and it consequently literally signifies”the law of appointed or selected brothers.” It contains the rules and regulations of the Order, the details of all public ceremonies to be used on various occasions, such as consecrations, installations, funerals, etc., and is, in fact, a summary of all the fundamental principles of Freemasonry. To this book reference is made in all cases where the by-laws of the Grand Lodge are silent or not sufficiently explicit. In all public processions, the Ahiman Rezon, or Book of Constitutions, should be carried before the Grand Master by the Master of the oldest Lodge present.
Considerable controversy has taken place over the meaning of the words, and many and ingenious have been the explanations offered by various students.
Mackey, who erred so seldom that his monumental Encyclopedia of Freemasonry, albeit enlarged and revised, is still a foundation stone for most structures of Masonic lore; interpreted them to mean”the will of selected brethren.” Dr. Fredrick Dalcho, learned Masonic authority of early years, believed that a better translation of the Hebrew was”the secrets of a prepared brother.”
For the benefit of those who are not familiar with the structure of Hebrew, it may be stated that many words in that ancient tongue are susceptible of many interpretations; indeed, many words in English have different meanings, according to context.”Case,” for instance, may be an action-at-law, a container, and illness or an injury. Other words pronounced alike but spelled differently have divergent meanings, as t-w-o, and t-o-o, or i-n and i-n-n. Written Hebrew is often without vowels (instance JHVH, usually written Jehovah in English) so the difference in translation of these two able Masonic scholars is not particularly strange.
Later authorities, however, believe that both were mistaken and that the real meaning of Ahiman Rezon is”faithful brother Secretary,” for technical reasons which have been well set forth by noted Hebrew scholars, including Brother the Reverend Morris Rosenbaum, a quarter of a century ago, in the Transactions of Quatuor Coronati (the great research Lodge in London).
According to the theory of the more modern translation, Dermott chose the word”Ahiman” because, as a Hebrew proper name, it was translated in the Geneva or”Breeches” Bible as”a brother of the right hand.” It is interesting to note that Young’s Concordance of the Bible (1924 revision) translates Ahiman, which occurs four times in the King James version, as meaning”brother of man.” Numbers, Joshua and Judges refer to Ahiman, a son of Anak, who dwelt in Hebron, and First Chronicles to Ahiman, a Hebrew porter in the Temple.
Dermott, however, must have used the Geneva Bible; all the texts in his book, quoted in his address”To the reader,” are verbatim excerpts from this work. In that”Breeches” Bible is the familiar”Table of Names and their Interpretations familiar in many editions of the Scriptures. Here Dermott must have found this”brother of the right hand” which he evidently took to indicate brother of fidelity, a faithful brother. However incorrect this translation may be – apparently it comes from the Hebrew”ah,” brother, and”yamin,” right hand – it was the translation to which Dermott had access. In the same Bible”Rezon” in translated”a secretarie or leane.” In the dedication of his second edition of the Ahiman Rezon, Dermott wrote: I hope you will do me the honor of calling me a faithful brother.”
Dermott had a smattering of Hebrew, but he fell into the common error of those whose knowledge runs not very deep; he lacked perspective and any feeling for the relativity of facts about the difficult tongue. Moderns find the same attitude of mind among the unschooled; an ignorant man denies that the earth is a ball, because it”looks” flat, but has no difficulty in believing in ghosts and banshees; he can”understand” how”speech travels through a telephone wire” but cannot comprehend the verity of the geological doctrine that the earth is many, many times six thousand years old. Similarly, Dermott could go to a Bible for his Hebrew words and their meanings, and not comprehend that a Hebrew scholar might make a mistake.
It is curious to find the pseudo-science of numerology called upon to explain Dermott’s choice of a name for his Book of Constitutions, which was, so oddly, to persist long after its contents was superseded by more modern text. Yet the evidence is plain; one need not credit that belief which ascribes magical powers of prophecy to the numerical value of the letters in a name to see the point. An ancient Jewish writer chose as a title of his work, words the numerical value of the letters of which would equal or nearly approximate the numerical value of the letters of his name, thus cryptographically offering evidence that he did, indeed, have the right to claim its authorship . . .a custom at least as old as 1200 A.D.
In all probability Dermott knew this; without such knowledge, it is difficult on any theories of probability to account for the fact that the numerical value of the letters in Ahiman Rezon is 372, while those in Laurence total 371. The difference of one is not actually a discrepancy, because Gematria, or numerical cryptography, regards a difference of but one as an equality, and even gives such a factor a name.
It may well be that this old Jewish custom was set forth for Dermott by a Jew, who would naturally demonstrate it only with a given name, not a surname; this may be why Dermott chose words which cryptographically equal”Laurence” and not”Laurence Dermott.”
Whatever the real meaning of Ahiman Rezon – whether it be Hebrew, properly translated “faithful brother secretary,” or”the will of selected brethren,” or”the secrets of a prepared brother,” or Spanish in origin, properly understood “There is a full account of the law” as Pennsylvania sets forth – the name for many years caught the imagination of Masons. Only lately has it fallen from its former high estate. Two old and greatly respected American Jurisdictions still find it all sufficient as the title of their official books of the law. It is to be noted, however, that but little of Laurence Dermott remains in either Pennsylvania’s or South Carolina’s volume; only the name there persists as a reminder of the Antient: influence in both these Grand Lodges.
– Source: Short Talk Bulletin – Jan. 1935
Masonic Service Association of North America