Thursday, January 3, 2013

Anno Lucis by Clay Anderson

You will sometimes see Masonic certificates, lodge secretary's minutes, 
cornerstones and other official Masonic records dated with the abbreviation 
A.L. This is usually said to be an abbreviation for the Latin phrase Anno 
Lucis, meaning in the Year of Light. The A.L. date is found by adding 4000 
to the common date. For example, the present year 2013 would be 6013 A.L. 
The basis for adding 4000 years to the common date is that according to 
tradition, using calculations based on a literal interpretation of the Bible, 
the world was created about 4000 B.C. Thus, the Masonic calendar was 
dated from when God said, "Let there be light." 

Outside of Freemasonry, the traditional date given for the creation of the 
world was usually 4004 B.C., as calculated by Archbishop James Ussher of 
Armagh, Ireland, in about 1650. The date of 4004 B.C. was inserted as a 
marginal note in the 1701 edition of the English authorized version of the 
Bible and was reproduced in many other editions until the twentieth century 
(and probably still is in some editions). 

Archbishop Ussher gave the date of the Nativity of Jesus as "Anno Mundi" 
4004, that is, 4004 years after the creation of the world. He based this 
date on computations adding up the ages given in the various genealogies in 
the Old Testament, and trying to correlate them with known historical dates. 
Obviously, there are many possible sources for error in such a method. 
The Masonic custom of adding 4000 years to the current date, rather than 
4004 years, appears to be simply a matter of convenience. It is much easier 
to convert dates quickly and easily if one is using a round figure like 

Mackey's Encyclopedia of Freemasonry notes that, "As to the meaning of the 
expression, it is by no means to be supposed that Freemasons, now, intend 
by such a date to assume that their Order is as old as the creation. It is 
simply used as expressive of reverence for that physical light which was 
created by the fiat of the Grand Architect, and which is adopted as the type 
of the intellectual light of Freemasonry. The phrase is altogether 

Brother Harry Mendoza, in an article, "Anno Lucis et al" in Ars Quatuor 
Coronatorum, vol. 85 (1980), traces the history of the phrase. He states 
that, "The earliest mention of 'Anno Lucis' in England that I have found so far 
is in 1777. I am referring to the phrase in full and not to its abbreviation, A.L. These initials can be found as early as in 1725, and frequently 
in the years afterwards. But it does not follow that these letters stood 
for 'Anno Lucis'. Indeed, as I will explain later, I do not think that they 
did. . . . 

"Until that date [1777] references in England to Craft masonic eras had 
usually been either to the Year of Masonry or by the abbreviation 'A.L.' . . 
. The phrase 'Year of Masonry' . . . is found fairly regularly on all sorts 
of documents throughout the 18th century and well on into the 19th. . . . 
"Throughout the 18th century the abbreviation 'A.L.' was used on various 
documents such as Warrants and Constitutions . . . but as I indicated 
earlier, it did not necessarily stand for 'Anno Lucis'. I very much doubt that 
it did during the early years. There were other tems which could be 
abbreviated as 'A.L.'" 

Brother Mendoza goes on to review several other Latin phrases with the 
initials 'A.L.' that could be translated as "in the Year of Masonry." He 
concludes that most likely the oldest such phrase was Anno Latomorum, the 
genitive plural case of the Latin word "Latomus," meaning "of the stonecutters." 
He also concludes that the phrase "Anno Lucis" originally came from the 
Continent, probably France, and that its origin may well stem from the 
"higher" degrees. 

Just for fun, here is a link to an article by Robert Anton Wilson on 
different calendar systems, pointing out that dating things A.L. has the 
advantage that the system begins around the first dawnings of civilization and 
writing, and allows us to see all history as a single sequence, not 
interrupted by an artificial changeover from counting backwards to counting forwards: 
With his usual sense of humor, Wilson suggests that there is a [fictional] 
Illuminati calendar using the Masonic A.L. system of dating: "The 
Illuminati chronology (year one A.L. or 4000 BCE Gregorian) begins with the birth 
of Hung Mung, the ancient Chaoist (pre-Taoist) Chinese philosopher who 
answered all questions by shouting loudly, 'I don't know! I don't know!'" 
Finally, A.E. Waite, in his New Encyclopedia of Freemasonry, states, 
"What is more to the purpose for Masons is to remember their own Year of 
Light, which is that of their initiation, and to see that it shines before 
them in all their paths, looking to the perfect day." 

Happy New Year, and a year of Masonic Light to all of us!!!! 



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