"To preserve the reputation of the Fraternity unsullied must be your constant care."


Monday, January 01, 2018

Happy A.D. 2018 - A.L. 6018!

Non-Masons may be especially curious about the two different years generally found on Masonic cornerstones, usually marked as A.D. and A.L. In fact, many of our own members may not really know the reason themselves. So, New Years Day is as good a time as any to explain it.

The Gregorian calendar was standardized by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582, though the non-Catholic Western world took another 200 years before they went along with the pope’s idea. Since 1776, most of the world has been on the same calendar page (though Greece and Russia didn’t adopt it until after World War I). Because Western Europe and America switched to the Gregorian calendar in the mid-1700s, conflicting ages are sometimes attributed to some of the notable figures of the period (like George Washington, who was born before the changeover). Because of the confusion, they themselves weren’t always positive of their exact age right off the top of their heads

In 1658, Bishop James Ussher in Ireland believed he had determined the exact date of God's creation of the world. Using the biblical account along with a comparison of Middle Eastern histories, Hebrew genealogy, and other known events, he determined that the Earth was created on Sunday, October 23, 4004 B.C. 

At about the same time, John Lightfoot, vice chancellor of Cambridge University, went on to further clarify that the Creation actually happened at about 9 a.m. No, Daylight Saving Time was not specified.

Ussher called his dated calendar Anno Mundi, the 'Year of the World.' Ussher and Lightfoot’s calculations of the exact date and time of the Creation were soon widely accepted as fact by most Christian denominations. Beginning in 1701, new editions of the King James Bible clearly stated it right up front in an added introduction that was not part of the biblical text, but might as well have been as far as readers were concerned. Up until the evolutionary theories of Charles Darwin were popularized, many Christians (and Jewish scholars as well) were firmly convinced that the Earth was no more than about 6,000 years old.

Because Ussher’s Creation date was so strongly believed at the time of modern Freemasonry’s origin in 1717, Masons began dating documents using 4004 B.C. as their beginning year . . . sort of. 4004 was an inconvenient number to remember, so Masons simply took the current year and added 4,000 to it. So, 1717 became 5717, and today 2018 becomes 6018 Anno Lucis, or A.L., since Anno Lucis means “Year of Light” in Latin. Masons called it that to coincide with the Genesis passage, “And God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light.” They did this early on to lend the fraternity an air of greater, more solemn antiquity. If they dated their documents as being 5,717 years old, they’d certainly sound more respectable and impressive than some newly formed London drinking club. Thus, today you will often see two dates on Masonic cornerstones—both A.D. and A.L.

But it doesn't stop there. The appendant bodies very quickly got into the act, as well.

Royal Arch Masons date time from the year 530 B.C., when the Second Temple was commemorated by Zerubbabel. Anno Inventionis (A.I.), which means "In the year of Discovery," is the term used in RAM Chapter documents, charters, and other literature. This adds 530 to the current date, therefore the year 2018 becomes A.I. 2548.

Royal and Select Masters, or Cryptic Masons, date their documents from the year in which the original Solomon's Temple was completed and the "secrets" were deposited in its vaults. They called it Anno Depositionis (A.D., but not the Anno Domini everyone was used to already), which means "In the year of the Deposit." It adds 1,000 to the current year, transforming 2018 into A.D. 3018.

The Masonic Knights Templar start their calendar with the formation of the original order in Jerusalem in 1118 A.D. Anno Ordinis (A.O.), which means "In the year of the Order," is the term they use. This deducts 1,118 from the current year, so 2018 becomes A.O. 900 in the Commandery.

If you thought the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite was going to just let that all go unchallenged, think again. The AASR followed the the similar idea of numbering years from the Creation that Craft Masons did, except for their use of the Hebraic chronology that Ussher had originally deviated from. They clearly felt that rounding up numbers was for lazy cheaters. The Hebrew calendar has several differences from the Gregorian calendar, one of which is that some months in the Hebrew version have 29 days and some have 30 days. Therefore, Ussher's term of Anno Mundi (A.M.) is also the label for the AASR dating system and adds 3,760 to the current year. Therefore the year 2018 becomes A.M. 5778.

And just because I'm stubborn and have been a firm adherent to the deliberate ways of coot-dom ever since I was a teenager, you will not ever find me voluntarily knuckling under to the modern use of B.C.E. and C.E. while I'm on this side of the dirt. B.C. and A.D. have worked just fine as descriptors ever since Dionysius the Humble applied them in the 6th Century, thank you very much. I see no reason to change now.


(H/T to Brother Michael Riddle, from whose Facebook posting I cribbed this artwork. If anyone knows its original source, please let me know and I will dutifully identify its proper creator.)


  1. There are other interesting examples of origin stories about Masonic calendars. For example when Brothers are initiated into the degrees of the Supreme Order of Quetzalcoatl they are instructed thusly:

    The God, Quetzalcoatl, is not himself "the feathered serpent," but the one who emerges from deep inside the serpent; just as the morning star rises from the horizon. He is identified with the wind and the planet Venus. Quetzalcoatl stands for all that is good and light in this world: peace, art, wisdom, and prosperity. He alone invented the arts, sciences and the calendar.

    And of course someIndian lodges use the Saka Calendar alongside the Gregorian Revised Calendar.

  2. Hello Bro Chris - I am requesting permission to use an excerpt of this article in the Trestleboard of Pleasanton Lodge #321 in California. Please reply and I will watch for your commment. Thank you.

    Craig Bell

  3. Also not mentioned is the Ancient and Honorable Order of E Clampus Vites adds 4005 to the, for the date when Adam and Eve were exiled from the Garden of Eden. Also owing to being older the Masonry.

  4. Great article, permission to link to it in my Chapter's blog?

  5. year 4000 BCE era , the bronze age/ was the historical start of records keeping, not adam and eve lol


Comments will not appear immediately, so be patient. I am forced to laboriously screen every post because I am constantly bombarded with spam. Anonymous postings on Masonic topics have the same status as cowans and eavesdroppers as far as I am concerned. If you post with an unknown or anonymous account, do not expect to see your comment appear.