Robert L.D. Cooper  Author, Historian, Freemason.


June 17th, 2023 by Robert Cooper

Now that I am retired I have been faffing around wondering what to do with myself. It has taken some time to make a decision as to my future endeavours and the answer is – quite a lot!

Most importantly I have been engaged to write a Masonic Educational Program that will provide the basic understanding of what Freemasonry ‘is’ and the program will attempt to deliver that in full. The difficulty is in providing a basic understanding of what Freemasonry is’, it’s fundamental morals, ethos and precepts.

Those ‘fundamentals’ were to be transmitted via Masonic ritual and many of you will know that one of my abiding interests has been to translate, transcribe and understand the earliest Masonic rituals, all of which are of Scottish origin.

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Back from my travels

February 3rd, 2023 by Robert Cooper

I have just returned from my travels to variously countries. It was something of a busman’s holiday as I gave some lectures as well as sitting poolside. It was good to get away from a freezing cold Scotland! It was still cold on my return but it only lasted a couple of days and thankfully it is warmer now.

In a couple of weeks I shall be back on my travels again but meantime I am trying to get material organised for my latest book which, I hope, will be published later this year. More details to follow.

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January 14th, 2023 by Robert Cooper

The New Year is said to be the time to make resolutions for the coming 12 months. I do believe that and is something I have done since a I was a child – my mother and father were very keen as it laid out their plans for the years – savings, holidays and birthday parties etc.

I was placed, unwillingly, on furlough leave at the beginning of the Covid-19 epidemic in early February 2021. That meant that I had to cancel all arrangements to give presentations at home and overseas. These included:

Brazil, Canada, England (numerous), Greece, France, New Jersey, Texas and Turkey. I have managed to catch up on some of those commitments but not surprisingly some have fallen by the wayside given the lapse of time.

This year I shall be fulfilling some of these postponed events beginning with trip to Turkey next week. I have been to Istanbul before and it is one of those special places in the world. I am delighted to know many Freemasons in that country.

In February I shall be travelling to the US to attend the conference of the Grand Masters of North America.

Meantime I am also trying to catch up on my writing. Many papers and a couple of books ‘froze’ during Covid-19 but this year I started writing them. Lewis Masonic will publish at least one of these. More details will be posted here in due course.

Lewis Masonic online bookshop can be viewed at:

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December 23rd, 2022 by Robert Cooper

When I worked for the Grand Lodge of Scotland (for almost 30 years) it was always a delight to attend staff Christmas lunches, give and receive Christmas cards and receive and accept the invitation to the annual Christmas concert in Freemasons’ Hall.

This year I received no communications whatsoever. No Christmas cards, no invitation to Christmas lunch and no enquires as to my health and well being.

For me, being retired from the Grand Lodge of Scotland turned out to be rather isolating.

Ho hum… as they say.

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Do Grand Lodges have a monopoly? Part 3

December 22nd, 2022 by Robert Cooper

The previous post left off where we had described how stonemasons’ only lodges became ‘mixed’ stonemason/non-stonemason Lodges and, then so called ‘speculative’ Lodges with no stonemasons as members. In other words Lodges of all possible ‘types’ originated and developed in Scotland before 1717.

1717 was therefore another just another step in the long march of history – in this case Masonic history.

Here, I digress to make an important historical point. History is a flow, without start or end. Oh, we know that certain big events grab the headlines – the beginning and end of WWII, 9/11, the fall of Soviet Russia, but these events do not occur as a one off, unexpected, event. In the natural world, noticeable events do occur, seemingly at random, such earth quakes or volcanic eruptions, but even they are the consequence of an historical progression, albeit in a physical, rather than a human manner.

Those events that are part of human history from major events such as the outbreak of war or revolution do not happen at 09.00 on a Monday morning but are the culmination of a previous series of events. Thus, the formation of the Grand Lodge of England in 1717* is but one event in the chain of events leading to Freemasonry as we know it today.

Back then, to the question: ‘Do Grand Lodges have a Monopoly regarding Freemasonry?’ and the answer, you may have already guessed, is no.

In fact, this has already been confirmed in a court of law no less! This is another interesting historical fact albeit virtually unknown. The Lodge of Edinburgh (Mary’s Chapel), No.1 (whose minutes begin on 31 July 1599 and are continuous to this day) had, by the end of the 17th century, become a Lodge whose members were essentially managers of other stonemasons and their influence and changes in the Lodge disturbed the ordinary stonemasons to such an extent that they broke away and formed another Lodge. That Lodge, The Lodge of Journeymen Masons, No.8, was for working stonemasons only and they continued to confer the Masonic degrees. Their actions annoyed the remaining members of the Lodge of Edinburgh to such an extent that they sued the Lodge of Journeymen Masons in court for unlawfully conferring the degrees of Freemasonry on people who had no right to receive the Masonic ‘secrets.’

The court found that no one, no Lodge, had a monopoly of conferring the degrees of Freemasonry and dismissed the case brought by the Lodge of Edinburgh. This is all a matter of record. As far as I am aware this was the first and only time (in the UK at least) that the right to confer Masonic degrees has been the subject of a legal challenge.

That legal judgement was made before the existence of any Grand Lodge and confirms that no one and no entity had or has a monopoly over Freemasonry.

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Do Grand Lodges have a monopoly? Part 2.

December 10th, 2022 by Robert Cooper

We left off at a point where we were discussing the differences between Scotland and England regarding the origins of Freemasonry.

There are extant records of Lodges in Scotland from as early as 9th January 1599 which are those of Aitcheson’s Haven Lodge. These are the oldest Lodge records in the world. That said it must be made clear that this Lodge, and other early Lodges, had members that were stonemasons alone.

This raises some very interesting and important considerations. If these Lodges had members that were all stonemasons, could they be considered to be Freemasons as we known them today? The answer is yes and, and well, yes!

Before discussing this further a few more facts are needed. Although these early Lodges were exclusively for stonemasons that did not last too long. Although Aitcheson’s Haven Lodge is the oldest on record it became extinct in the mid-19th century. The oldest Lodge with extant records and which is still in existence is The Lodge of Edinburgh (Mary’s Chapel), No.1 (to give it its’ full modern name) and whose records commence on 31st July 1599. It is in this Lodge that we see the admission of non-stonemasons for the first time. In 1634 several members of the Scottish aristocracy were admitted and so the ‘cat was out of the bag’ as they say and the admission of non-stonemasons became a regular, if not frequent, occurrence during the remainder of that century.

This Lodge can therefore be described as a Lodge that remained a stonemasons’ Lodge but with a small number of non-stonemasons as members. In answer to the above question therefore, the answer must be that it was a Lodge of stonemasons.

However, when we consider The Lodge of Aberdeen the situation is different. This Lodge’s records commence in 1670 and the membership roll (contained in the famous Mark Book) reveals that stonemasons were in the minority. In fact, approximately only 20% of the membership were stonemasons the other 80% comprised the full range of society at the time – from aristocrats, professional people (lawyers, professors etc.) to those with more humble occupations such as porridge makers! This Lodge is therefore an almost mirror image of that in Edinburgh. Whether or not the Lodge began as a stonemasons’ Lodge before its’ records begin we shall probably never know but we can say that towards the end of the 17th century Lodges (if this Lodge is anything to go by) were attracting more non-stonemasons than stonemasons.

The next ‘stage’ in the development of these early Scottish Lodges is the appearance of Lodges with no connection whatsoever with the occupation of stonemasonry. The ‘purest’ example being that of the Haughfoot Lodge whose records commence in 1702 and all the members where drawn from the local gentry with not a single stonemason involved. We would recognize that today as being a modern ‘Speculative’ Lodge (although I don’t like the term speculative in the Scottish context).

More soon.

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Do Grand Lodges have a monopoly?

December 8th, 2022 by Robert Cooper

A monopoly on what you might well ask – as did I. Ritual? Charters (Warrants)? Initiations? Or, something else.

It was something else! The person who sent me the question asked something far simpler: ‘Do Grand Lodges have a monopoly over Freemasonry?’ – that is the communal practice of conferring degrees on suitable applicants.

My initial reaction was: ‘of course not’ and thought that this would be an easy question to answer especially as I am at an early stage of this idea of Questions and Answers about Freemasonry.

Back to the question: ‘Do Grand Lodges have a monopoly on Freemasonry?’ and although my simple reply – of course not, is correct at first glance the devil is, as always, in the detail.

The first problem is defining what Freemasonry is and if a satisfactory definition is agreed (something I am not sure is possible) we are then confronted with the problems of defining what a ‘Grand Lodge’ is and what a ‘monopoly’ means.

Let us attempt the first definition – what is Freemasonry? Before the arrival of Grand Lodges in the early 18th century, Masonic Lodges existed all over Scotland. This national network of Lodges did not have a central controlling body (a Grand Lodge if you will) and each Lodge when about its own affairs unaccountable to any superior body. In other words they were independent, local, entities but they had one major common aspect and that was the ritual.

From existing, written, Scottish records we know that the ritual used by these Lodges was almost identical regardless of where any particular Lodge was located. These rituals are well known to Masonic historians but because they are handwritten and dispersed across various archives and libraries are not so well known as the first printed ritual.

For the record, the earliest known ritual is the Edinburgh Register House manuscript (MS) and is dated 1696 with several more appearing during the course of the following decade. This is an important point as they were written many years prior to the existence of any Grand Lodge. If, therefore, Freemasonry is defined as an initiatory system with a common ceremonial (ritual) in use by all known Lodges then Freemasonry as we know it today certainly existed in Scotland as early as the late 16th century.

Alternatively, if a Grand Lodge is defined as a body which it issues Charters, or Warrants, that are required to create Lodges then the definition of Freemasonry is somewhat different. However, in my view, this is a weak argument simply because prior to Grand Lodges the common denominator of Freemasonry was the ritual and not pieces of paper issued by a central authority.

By the first definition therefore, Grand Lodges did not, and could not, have a monopoly over what Lodges were doing at a local level. By the second definition, what I shall call ‘Grand Lodge Freemasonry,’ overlaid what already existed and the intriguing question here is: how did a Grand Lodge (and later, other Grand Lodges) come to acquire the power to govern existing local Lodges?

Consider this as an introduction to a Masonic subject that although I initially thought to be quite simple, and therefore quite simple to answer, turns out to be quite the opposite.

The answer, I think, lies in the different histories of two countries – Scotland and England. The national network of independent local Lodges existed in Scotland, in writing, from 9th January 1599. Even these earliest written records show that Lodges were meeting before then as they refer to earlier events.

England, on the other hand had no national network of Lodges. There are no Lodge records of a similar age to those in Scotland. It is inconceivable that all written records from England, had they existed, have simply disappeared.

To be continued…

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Monthly Question

December 7th, 2022 by Robert Cooper

road-signs.jpgA friend has requested that I answer some questions on a monthly basis. I suspect that she is frustrated by the fact that she cannot always, well hardly ever, get hold of me to ask questions that are important (to her). Her idea is therefore that she sends me a question which I shall post here and then answer it so that she, and you, can see it without having to even try and contact me! Well good luck with that…

The idea is good so far as it goes but, I am going to build in an ‘escape hatch’ that will give me some ‘wriggle room.’ I shall post his/her questions here monthly but then answer them during the course following month. This ought to allow me time to research the more difficult and obscure questions that I know she intends to send! That said the first question is benign. And that means I can answer it almost right away!

Whilst I am in no way soliciting questions you are welcome to send any of your questions regarding Freemasonry, especially Scottish Freemasonry, to me (via the Contact page only please) but please do not expect a personal reply. If at all possible I shall post your query here together with an answer.

The first question from my friend (who is not a Freemason BTW) is: ‘The Freemasons seem to have lots of weird signs and symbols. What are they for and what purpose do they serve?’

Answer: First and foremost it is important to differentiate between signs and symbols. Signs are intended to impart some specific knowledge, present definite information or give instructions. Road signs are a good example of this – Road Works Ahead (see image) is a warning SIGN. It is not a symbol. Some road signs are instructions such as STOP. The meaning of the sign is obvious. It means something very specific. Signs are therefore clear and are intended only to impart a particular piece of information. Symbols are different from signs because they can also be signs. Signs cannot be symbols. For example a cross (†) is often placed outside a particular building to indicate that it is a place of worship and, more precisely, a place of Christian worship – usually a church. However, this sign is also a symbol because to Christians it means the Passion Cross – a symbol for the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Symbols can therefore, have multiple meanings whereas a sign has only one purpose or meaning. Using the example of the Christian Passion Cross: it, like many symbols, has several meanings. Not only does it suggest Christ, a Christian, a Christian place of worship (a church) it also suggests more esoteric interpretations such as the mystery of the Son of God, his birth, life, mission, Passion and resurrection.

Freemasonry has very few signs but it has a huge number of symbols. Masonic symbols are used to explain certain aspects of the Craft and are therefore, the ‘private language’ of Freemasonry (the Craft). If one wishes to learn Spanish, although having no knowledge of that language, it is quite possible to do so without going to Spain or becoming a Spainish citizen. The private language of Freemasonry is different. In the first place, Masonic symbolism is, and can only be, interpreted in a Masonic setting. The exception is where a symbol might be used in public to let people know where there is a Masonic meeting place. This is fairly common in some countries such as the USA but is much less common in Scotland and other parts of Europe.

Please use the contact form at: to ask a question but please be aware that my time is limited and it will not be possible for every question to be answered.

The next question will follow soon and will try to answer it as quickly as this but no promises!

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Grand Lodge of California

July 3rd, 2020 by Robert Cooper

Masonic gifts from the Grand Lodge of California.

I recently received several lovely Masonic gifts from the Grand Lodge of California as a consequence of my Zoom presentation on 24 June 2020.

Although not necessary the gifts were very much appreciated especially as that Grand Lodge of is one of my ‘affiliate’ Grand Lodges. By that I mean that I am a member of a two Lodges there and have been invited to visit and have given several lectures. Most notably the prestigious Henry Wilson Coil – instituted to commemorate the work of the Freemason by that name. He is arguably best remembered for his encyclopedia of Freemasonry which remains in print today.

There is a library and museum dedicated to his memory. To see details online please visit:

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June 25th, 2020 by Robert Cooper

I have been asked many times over the last few weeks where a copy of the book: The Red Triangle can be obtained.

The Grand Lodge of Scotland online shop has hardback copies and although you can place an order it will not be processed until staff return from furlough leave.

Meantime I have just been informed that the book has just been republished in paperback form and can be ordered directly from the publisher.

The paperback can be ordered directly from Lewis Masonic at:

However, if you would prefer to have a hardback copy I suggest waiting until Freemasons’ Hall reopens – although I cannot say when that will be.

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Grand Lodge of California

June 23rd, 2020 by Robert Cooper

In these days of lock-down due to the Corona Virus I am presently surprised at how adaptable Freemasons are under these conditions. An example of that is this initiative by the Grand Lodge of California.

In these days of lock-down due to the Corona Virus I am presently surprised at how adaptable Freemasons are under these conditions. am proud to have been asked, as a Past Master of Quatuor Coronati Lodge, No.2076, to give a presentation tomorrow, hosted by the Grand Lodge of California.

I am doubly honoured as I am a member of the Southern Californian Lodge of Research and a past Henry Wilson Coil lecturer.

Pre-registration required. See:…

PS. Just a reminder that my main Facebook page is now t

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Grand Lodge Digitisation Project

May 16th, 2020 by Robert Cooper

The Grand Lodge of Scotland (GLoS) is the guardian of some precious documents but also innumerable most mundane texts. As we all know paper, whether in the form of books of as loose sheets, takes up a lot of space together with the associated problems of searching the the material. Digital copies of paper makes life a lot easier.

Although designated as ‘Curator’ I am also Librarian and Archivist but the title: Curator, Librarian and Archivist of the Grand Lodge of Scotland Museum and Library is far too much of a mouthful!

Some years ago I commenced the Grand Lodge Digitisation project. The aim? To digitally copy all paper in Freemasons’ Hall, Edinburgh! An ambitious target but a worthy one and although it is very unlikely to be completed in my lifetime it is hoped that my successors will continue the project especially as it is now so well developed.

The first problem was deciding where to start as there so much to choose from. The oldest Minutes in the world perhaps? Lodge Petitions? However, I decided to tackle something easier first – some printed material. This was as a learning process and equipment assessment.

When Grand Lodges issues a Charter to a new Lodge it retains a copy. These are large documents – approximately three feet by two feet (0.93 m by 0.61 m). Their size meant that they could not be scanned on an A4 flatbed scanner so a digital camera was used (Nikon D500 fitted with a 60mm macro lens. The next problem was that to capture the whole document in a single image meant that the camera had to be placed approximately six feet (1.83 m) above the document. That required a very large tripod!

That experience taught me that a range of techniques and equipment would be needed to complete the task.

  1. Camera and tripod for very large documents
  2. Flatbed scanner for ephemera
  3. Book scanner for, well, books.t

Even then it was clear that there were some items that could not be dealt with onsite and professional digitisation services would be required. But it is the onsite digitisation which is under my direct supervision.

The early part of the project revealed the extent to which Grand Lodge archives have been under-resourced – this is not a criticism simply a statement of fact. But it is not too late if resources are made available now.

More to follow…

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May 12th, 2020 by Robert Cooper

Saint Michael’s Kirkyard in Dumfries is a special place for Freemasons as it the last resting place of Brother Robert Burns.

Burns aficionados will be interested to learn of a new, limited edition, book on the kirkyard. Although Burns’ mausoleum is an important feature and is discussed in detail, there is much more to the kirkyard. This new book discusses, and illustrates, one of the most important and most overlooked, Scottish graveyards.

This handsome volume by the established authority on funerary monuments, Professor James Stevens Curl, can only be purchased by subscription. To order and pay go to the FaceBook page at or download and use the ‘flyer’ attached to this post.

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Online Lectures

May 4th, 2020 by Robert Cooper

My online lectures seem to have been well received and some have been posted on YouTube! There are a few more presentations arranged including one for the Grand Lodge of California in June. There is one catch – to participate one has to register. See:…

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Zoom presentations

May 1st, 2020 by Robert Cooper

I have been flattered by the number of requests I have received to give ‘virtual presentations’ on various Masonic subjects.

As a Zoom novice I am on a steep learning curve but have managed to master the basics. However, I cannot work out how to use images to illustrate my talks. If anyone can explain how to do that I would be most grateful.

Meantime I will try to post images on my Facebook page after each talk. I know that it is not ideal so please bear with me. My Facebook page is at:

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Web Site Security Update

April 27th, 2020 by Robert Cooper

Although I am furlough leave I have never been busier. But I have found the time to start to update this much neglected web site.

The latest change has been to add a security certificate (SSL) so that the site now shows that the site is secure. This means that the address is slightly different. http is now https and is illustrated by a graphic of a small padlock immediately before the web site address.

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February 11th, 2023 by Robert Cooper

I saw this whilst on a visit to Stirling Castle and just had to have it – well you all known by now I am an historian! I had previously been aware that unicorns were initially thought to have been real animals with very special attributes. They were extremely shy, and adept at avoiding capture, which explained why none were in captivity.

It was only later that it was realised that it was a mythical beast and did not exist in real life.

However, by that time it had become so embedded in western culture it did not matter if it was not real.

The unicorn possessed magic which lay in its horn’s ability to detect the presence of poison and to purify water. The tapestry shows the unicorn kneeling at the edge of a burn with men and animals and men looking to watch this miracle take place. The people seem to be in awe of the miracle taking place before their eyes.

In Christian world view, especially when the tapestry was woven, the unicorn represented Christ incarnate, a symbol of purity and grace that could only be captured by someone pure: physically – a virgin and spiritually – an innocent. This interpretation has fallen out of use in our modern, secular, world.

It was by no accident that the unicorn was chosen by the monarchs of Scotland as their animal which was incorporated into their coat of arms (see picture). Why? Simple! The unicorn was the only animal in that could kill a lion, and the lion was the chosen animal of the monarchs of England!

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I am not a morning person

July 16th, 2021 by Robert Cooper

WE adore an inspirational tale involving positivity and personal improvement. Jennifer Brown from Paisley supplies us with one such narrative when she tells us: “Before my morning coffee I hate everyone.”Proving that obstacles really can be overcome, she adds:“After my morning coffee I feel good about hating everyone!

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