be or not to be?
That is the question.
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind
The slings and arrows of
Or to take arms against a sea
And by opposing end them.
is a man,
If his chief good and market of his time
Be but to sleep and feed? a beast, no more.
Sure, he that made us with such large discourse,
Looking before and after, gave us not
That capability and god-like reason
To fust in us unused. Now, whether it be
Bestial oblivion, or some craven scruple
Of thinking too precisely on the event,
A thought which, quarter’d, hath but one part wisdom
And ever three parts coward, I do not know
Why yet I live to say ‘This thing’s to do;’
Sith I have cause and will and strength and means
To do’t. …”[iii]
The three Degree ceremonies of Craft Masonry are intended to introduce a
new member of Order to the philosophy, ethics, morality and teachings of
Freemasonry. They seek to establish in his mind the sort of life that we, as
Brethren, lead (or should lead) and expect him to lead.
Those elements – philosophy, ethics, and
morality – are summarised in the latter part of the Lecture on the First
Degree Tracing Board. You will recall that the Lecture defines the concepts
of the Three Great Lights, the Three Lesser Lights, the principal virtues of
Faith, Hope and Charity, and the cardinal virtues of Temperance,
Fortitude, Prudence, and Justice. It tells us that the distinguishing
characteristics of a good Freemason are Virtue, Honour, and Mercy and in doing
so lays out the moral code of behaviour which every Freemason is expected to
observe. They are our moral philosophy. The symbolism of the three columns –
Wisdom, Strength and Beauty – offers us a structure which helps us live by the
What it doesn’t tell us is that the essence
of the First Degree ceremony is to introduce us to the concepts and importance
of a work ethic. An ethic which relies on accuracy, labour and perseverance and
which is summarised in the final paragraph of the Working Tools of the First
“From the whole we deduce this moral: that
knowledge grounded on accuracy, aided by labour, and sustained by perseverance,
will finally overcome all difficulties.”
We are all familiar with this concept: not
only did we hear it in the presentation of the First Degree Working Tools – we
have all experienced it at some stage in our lives. We may even have endeavoured
to define it in some way. But I believe we will all agree that it is unlikely
that we could have defined it as succinctly as we do in the First Degree.
The work ethic is the first of three elements
by which we introduce ourselves – or more properly, I suppose, our Candidates
– to Freemasonry.
The other two elements are knowledge and
the Second Degree the new Freemason is introduced to the necessity of supporting
the development of the work ethic to which he has already been introduced with
the improvement and honing of his mind. Such improvement will support him in
attaining the third element, spirituality, which awaits him in his third step.
There wasn’t always a third step, however.
At one time the Second Degree, as we now know it, reigned supreme. It was the
qualification that allowed a Mason to progress. It was the culminating
qualification when the four Lodges which met in The
Goose and Gridiron, St Paul’s Churchyard, The
Crown, Lincoln’s Inn Fields, The
Rummer and Grapes, Channel Row, and The
Apple Tree, Covent Garden formed the Premier Grand Lodge of London in 1717
and that it held this important place is exemplified in The Reverend Dr James
Anderson’s Constitutions which were published in 1723[iv]:
among Masons is grounded upon real worth and personal merit only; … therefore no Master or Warden is chosen by
seniority, but for his merit. It is impossible to describe these things in
writing, and therefore every brother must attend in his place, and learn them in
a way peculiar to his fraternity. … no master should take an apprentice unless
… he be a perfect youth, having no maim or defect in his body that may render
him incapable of learning the art, … and of being made a Brother, and then a
fellowcraft in due time, after he has served such a term of years as the custom
of the country directs; that so, when otherwise qualified, he may arrive to the honour of being
Warden, and then the Master of the Lodge, the Grand Warden, and at
length the Grand Master of all the Lodges, according to his merit. No
Brother can be a Warden until he has passed the part of a fellowcraft, nor a
Master until he has acted as a Warden, nor Grand Warden until he has been Master
of a Lodge nor Grand Master until he has been a fellowcraft before his election
This entry in the Book of Constitution
carries the note:
antient times no Brother, however skilled in the craft, was called a Master
Mason until he had been elected into the chair of a Lodge.
Harry Carr, in “The Freemason at Work”[v]
“If we could go back to the time when there
was only one degree (or admission ceremony) however brief, in the operative
lodges, it was, in my opinion, almost certainly for the ‘fellow of craft’,
i.e., the fully trained mason, and we might date it around the 1300s, though we
have no real documentary evidence to prove it. Apprentices were still the
chattels of their masters in thoe days and it is extremely unlikely that they
had any kind of status in the earliest operative lodges.
“In the early 1500s, there is reasonable
evidence (Statutes of Labourers in England, and the ‘Seal of Cause of the
Masons and Wrights’ in Edinburgh read in conjunction with the ‘Schaw
Statutes’ and Lodge Minutes of 1598 and 1599) which point very clearly to the
existence of a system of two degrees, one for the Entered Apprentice and the
other for the Fellow Craft (or Master).
“The third degree made its appearance at
some date between c. 1711 and c.1725. …
“The first recorded
conferment of the E.A. degree was on 9 January 1598 in the Minutes of the
Aitchison’s Haven Lodge (near Edinburgh, Scotland) – ‘ … Upon quhilk day
Alexander Cubie was enterit prenteis to Georg Aytone …’ (AQC, Vol. 24,
“The first recorded
conferment of the F.C. degree is 9 January 1598 also in the Minutes of the
Aitchison’s Haven Lodge:
“‘ … Robert Widderspone was maid fellow
of Craft in ye presens of Wilzam Aytone Elder …’ (AQC, Vol. 24, p. 34.)”
Robert Cooper writes[vi] that in the 1690s in
Scotland there were two degrees of Freemasonry – the Entered Apprentice and
the Fellow Craft, and comments that the degrees are, in effect, plays in which
the candidate is one of the actors although, as he writes, an actor who has not
rehearsed his part. He writes:
“This lack of rehearsal is deliberate for two
reasons: firstly, it is part of the historical continuity with the past, and
secondly, it demonstrates that the candidate trusts those he seeks to join. A
candidate seeks to become a Freemason of ‘his own free will and accord’ and
in so doing accepts that he can be told little and experience nothing before
he becomes a Freemason. In return for his trust, Freemasonry assures the
candidate that he will not be asked to do or say anything that might cause him
physical or mental pain, nor to break laws or to experience conflict with his
duties as a husband, citizen or employee or as the member of any faith. All this
creates a special and unique relationship between the member and the
organisation. It maintains the mystique. The candidate takes part in each degree
in the same way that every other Freemason has before him has, and is the first
lesson of mutual trust and respect, which the Freemason is taught to extend to
everyone, to every other human being.”
Cooper, Carr and others comment that the
earliest form of the degree appears to have emerged from the Edinburgh Register
House manuscript of 1696. It is written in the form of a catechism (questions
and answers). Cooper includes it in his book as part of Appendix 1[vii].
Some of the questions are of interest in our modern setting and clearly
establish part of the form with which we are familiar (Cooper cites the original
language. I’ve updated it to make it easier to read).
Are you a mason?
How shall I know it?
You shall know it in time and place convenient.
The answer is only to be made when there is company present who are not masons.
But if there be no such company by, you should answer by signs and tokens and
other points of my entry.
What is the first point?
Tell me the first point, I’ll tell you the second. The first is to hele and
conceal, second, under no less pain, which is that cutting of your throat, for
you must make the sign when you say that.
What makes a true and perfect lodge?
Seven masters, five entered apprentices, a day’s journey from a borough or
town without the bark of dog or crow of cock.
Does no less make a true and perfect lodge?
Yes five masons and three entered apprentices &c.
Does no less?
The more the merrier the fewer the better cheer.
What is the name of your lodge?
How stands your lodge?
East and west as the temple of Jerusalem.
Where was the first lodge?
In the porch of Solomon’s Temple.
Are there any lights in your lodge?
Yes three the north east, south west and eastern passage. The one denotes the
master mason, the other the warden. The third the setter croft.
Are there any jewels in your lodge?
Yes three, perfect ashlar, a square pavement and a broad oval.
There is much more, including a long
description of how the candidate receives the “word”: “… after a great
many ceremonies to frighten him … after he has taken his oath he is removed
out of the company, with the youngest mason, where after he is sufficiently
frightened with 1000 ridiculous postures and grimaces … first when he enters
again into the company he must make a ridiculous bow, then the sign and say God
bless the honourable company. Then putting on his hat after a very foolish
manner only to be demonstrated then (as the rest of the signs are likewise) he
says the words of entry …”
endeavours to put the Degree into perspective. He writes that none of us can
escape the consciousness that it is very much a continuation of the First –
indeed he calls it a continuation of it – and points out that we do not know
what led to a separation of the two Degrees or how it was made. And, he writes,
we know only a little more as to what happened to the Second Degree when, in the
same decade it was established the Third Degree was separated from it.
“It is obvious, however, that the interest and
importance of the Second Degree considerably suffered by its separation from an
inferior degree, and later by the shedding of part of its most interesting
material to a superior degree.”
Of the Degree, then and now, he goes on to
“There is one marked difference between the
old operative fellow, or fellow craft, and the speculative Fellow Craft. The
operative had taken a big step as a man and as a mason when, from being an
entered apprentice he became a fellow, for he was now a fully fledged member of
the community and could work as a master whenever the opportunity came his way,
because he as already of the master’s grade. And in speculative masonry, too,
early in the eighteenth century, an exact parallel could be drawn, for once
there were conferred upon the Apprentice the privileges of the Second Degree he
had all the qualification needed to become Master of his lodge and officer of
high rank in the Order. But with the passage of the years this altered.
“The ‘Antients’ emphasised the
importance of the masonic grade of Master Mason; they insisted that the Fellow
Craft must become a Master Mason before he could qualify to be the Master of a
lodge, and that he could not assume that office until he had passed through an
esoteric ceremony of Installation, with which qualification he could then rise
to any rank in the Order.
“In the lodges of the so-called
‘Moderns’ the Fellow Craft still remained the fully qualified mason, for
Master and Grand Officers could be drawn from his grade; but with the
reconciliation between the two bodies in 1813 the Fellow Craft finally lost his
earlier importance. The ceremony of the Fellow Craft Degree was probably still
further depleted in the course of effecting a peaceful compromise between the
two bodies, with the consequence that to-day we regard the Fellow Craft as
having achieved little more than a midway position in freemasonry, superior in
status to that of an Entered Apprentice, but definitely inferior to that of the
Master Mason, to which he hopes shortly to attain. His ceremony has certainly
carried further the ideas and philosophies to which he was introduced at his
Initiation, but, apart from that, it has been little more than a stepping-stone
from the experience of one Initiation to the even richer experience of another
yet to come.
“Evidence still remains to us of the
significance attaching to the Second Degree in early days. The Fellow Craft’s
tools, undoubtedly the most important of all the speculative’s tools, were a
Master’s tools, and they still provide the jewels of the Master and his two
Wardens respectively, while it is to be noted that the tools now associated with
the Master Mason’s Degree did not come into use until after the union of 1813.
… The necessary preparation of the Master Elect for his high office is
conducted (in English Lodges) in the Fellow Craft’s lodge, and not in the
Master Mason’s. There can be no doubt, then, that originally the Fellow
Craft’s Degree was one of supreme importance, and of this, fortunately, there
still survive many traces.”
It is of interest to explore the word
The American Heritage Dictionary[ix]
defines the word as:
NOUN: 1. Skill in doing or making something,
as in the arts; proficiency. 2. Skill in evasion or deception; guile. 3a.
An occupation or trade requiring manual dexterity or skilled artistry. b.
The membership of such an occupation or trade; guild. 4. A boat, ship, or
TRANSITIVE VERB: 1. To make by hand. 2.
To make or construct (something) in a manner suggesting great care or ingenuity
ETYMOLOGY: Middle English, from Old English cræft.
Craft has been used as a
verb since the Old English period and was used in Middle English to refer
specifically to the artful construction of a text or discourse.
comments that the early 17th century Authorised Version of the Bible,
telling of Paul’s arrival at Corinth, says that he stayed with a certain
family “because he was of the same craft, … for by their occupation they
were tent makers.” (Acts, Chapter 8, verse 3), and he writes that it is easy
to see how “craft” cane to mean a trade mystery, a guild, a brotherhood or
“The early merchant guilds developed in course of
time into craft guilds, and the guild of this kind came to be known as a
‘craft’, in which sense the word came down to freemasonry, probably through
the London Company of Masons.”
As we know, it is applied to the first three
degrees, which we also know as the symbolic degrees.
Jones further comments[xi] that a craftsman is one
who practises a craft and in our Order he is one who has been passed to the
“In the old days a mason was ‘crafted’ by
being made a Fellow Craft. In the Lodge of Dunblane, in the year 1720, a Brother
was said to be ‘duly passed from the square to the compass’ – that is,
from an Entered Apprentice to a Fellow of Craft.”
He writes that the “fellow” is derived
from an Old Norse word felage, meaning ‘partnership’, and implying equality and
friendly association. The AHD has some definitions as:
2. A comrade or associate. 3a. A person of
equal rank, position, or background; a peer. 4. A member of a learned
society. 5. A graduate student appointed to a position granting financial
aid and providing for further study. 6. Chiefly British a.
An incorporated senior member of certain colleges and universities. b. A
member of the governing body of certain colleges and universities.
On the history of the word, it concurs with
A jolly good fellow might or might not be the ideal
business associate, but the ancestor of our word fellow definitely
referred to a business partner. Fellow was borrowed into English from Old
Norse felagi, meaning “a partner or shareholder of any kind.” Old
Norse felagi is derived from felag, “partnership,” a compound
made up of fe, “livestock, property, money,” and lag, “a
laying in order” and “fellowship.” The notion of putting one's property
together lies behind the senses of felagi meaning “partner” and
“consort.” In Old Icelandic felagi also had the general sense
“fellow, mate, comrade,” which fellow has as well, indicating perhaps
that most partnerships turned out all right for speakers of Old Icelandic.
Jones writes that the Regius Poem repeatedly
refers to a mason as a ‘fellow’ and many of the Old Charges use the term,
sometimes in the form ‘Master and Fellows’. Guild
members were often referred to as fellows, in much the same way as the word is
now used in academic institutions – as in “Fellow of a College”. Elias
Ashmole in 1682 described himself as “the Senior Fellow” among masons
gathered at the lodge in the London Company of Masons. Jones think, therefore,
that it is obvious that in the 1600s the English word for one enjoying full
membership of the masonic fraternity had to be ‘fellow’.
He points out, however, that “Fellow
Craft” was imported from Scotland and that is possible that English masons saw
it for the first time in the 1723 Constitutions
of James Anderson, especially in the section quoted earlier which is headed Of Master, Wardens, Fellows and Apprentices. The Constitutions
used three words all meaning the same thing – Fellow, Craftsman and Fellow
Craft. It should perhaps be noted that “Fellow Craft” was the term used in
the lodges of Aberdeen, which was the home city of Anderson, and elsewhere in
Scotland. The Schaw Statutes and early Scots minutes use the term “Fellow of
Craft” which Jones takes to mean simply a fellow or equal member of a skilled
craft or companionship.
The form of the degree follows that
established in the First Degree except that as a preliminary the Candidate is
asked to prove that he has reached a level of attainment which satisfies the
Brethren present that he is ready to continue.
Why is this important? Because he has been
told, or will be told, that Freemasonry is a progressive science. If he is to
progress he must have properly developed the platform from which he can
progress. Thus he is questioned to establish that he is indeed proficient in
what he has been taught in the First Degree.
But more is yet required. He also has to
demonstrate that he has learned and, hopefully, understood the Secrets of the
First Degree, so he is interrogated by both the Junior and Senior Wardens. When
they are satisfied, he is able to progress to the Obligation and Secrets, but
only after another brief interrogation by the Master – who is still trying to
ensure that the Candidate is genuine in wishing to be made a Freemason.
He learns that he is to advance to the East
in a curious manner – that of apparently trying to ascend a winding staircase
the significance of which is described in the Lecture of the Second Degree
Tracing Board. Customarily he starts in the north and takes an anticlockwise
course but there has always been some debate about this.
The Biblical reference is 1 Kings Chapter 6
verse 8: “The
door for the middle chamber was in the right side of the house: and they went up
with winding stairs into the middle chamber, and out of the middle into the
third.” The word “right” is also used in Chapter
7 verse 39: “And he put five bases on the right side of the house, and five on
the left side of the house: and he set the sea on the right side of the house
eastward over against the south.”. The word “right” is thus considered
have the meaning of “south” – that is the observer is considered to be
looking towards the east with the south on his right hand and we could conclude
that the correct orientation should be ascending in a clockwise direction.
in response to a question that most movements in Freemasonry are clockwise
(‘with the sun’ as it were – but viewed from the northern hemisphere)
“The clockwise procedure is custom, not
law, even in those Lodges where clockwise movements have become a fetish.
“In English Lodges, the Altar is in the
East, forming a pedestal in front of the W.M. When the Candidate in the Second
Degree is led up to it to take his Obligation, he is supposedly copying our
ancient Brethren who went into the Temple by an entrance on the south side and
made their way, by a Winding Stair, to the ‘middle chamber’, whose precise
location is not specified. But the majority of English workings relating to
those steps start the Candidate at the N.E. and lead him to the Altar in the
East. In plain fact, we are not even trying to copy the supposed ancient
practice, and the two procedures cannot be reconciled.
“I have never seen an interpretation of the
‘Winding Stairs’ in K.S.T. which proves that they rose clockwise or
Carr says that the vast majority of
illustrations in Dring’s famous paper on Tracing Boards (AQC 29) show the
Winding Stairs spring from left to right i.e. anti-clockwise. It may be of
interest that the majority of Tracing Boards in the Hauraki District indicate
the anticlockwise direction but that in Lodge Whitianga shows a clockwise
The Winding Stairs and the Middle Chamber are
most important parts of the Tracing Board. The Winding Stair can be considered
symbolic of human progress. On the lowest step the highest step is out of sight.
At the beginning of life its end is beyond vision. The ascent represents the
toil and labour of existence which study and acquisition of Knowledge entails.
The outcomes of our lives are hidden from view until we are worthy of them. The
Winding Staircase can be considered an allegory of the ascent of the mind from
ignorance to knowledge through the toils of study.
The Middle Chamber symbolises the goal in
life. As we ascend the staircase, the goal is out of sight, but as we reach the
top of the staircase and enter the Middle Chamber, so shall we be judged by what
we have done during that ascent which in turn determines our “wages”.
formal Obligation reinforces the elements of secrecy which were forcefully
stated in the First Degree Obligation but adds some further instructions. The
First Degree instructs the Candidate that he must not write or mark down the
Secrets in any form whatsoever and that he must not reveal them to anyone except
a tried Brother and in a Regular Lodge. The Second Degree repeats the Obligation
with regard to the Secrets and reminds the Candidate that he cannot reveal them
except to those who are lawfully entitled to them. It then instructs him that he
is obliged to answer signs and respond to summons unless his family, his work,
or his health prevent him from so doing. It also reminds him that he is to
maintain the principles which he learned in the First Degree.
As a reward for sealing the Obligation, as in
all Degrees in Freemasonry, the secrets appropriate to the Degree are
communicated to the Candidate and he is regaled with, not just a simple sign,
but a complex and peculiar threefold sign, the first part of which reveals the
importance of a sign he has already seen in the closing of the First Degree but
probably has not yet encountered the meaning of – even by that osmotic process
by which we take aboard much of the philosophy and protocols of the Order. This
is, of course, the sign of Fidelity and he learns that the symbol of the square
formed by his thumb and fingers are protecting his secrets. He may recall that
he was introduced to this concept by the Inner Guard when he entered the Fellow
Craft Lodge for the first time. The symbolism of the other two parts of the sign
are less clear – the one, the sign of prayer (or hailing sign) – mentioning
some obscure Biblical references, and the other implying a blood-thirsty
It appears that the Amalekites were used as a
threat over the Children of Israel: I can find 27 references from Genesis to
Chronicles. I can’t find a reference to Moses adopting a particular
“posture” but – from Genesis (in the Chapter which refers to Sodom)
And they returned, and came to En-mishpat, which is Kadesh, and smote all the
country of the Amalekites, and also the Amorites that dwelt in Hazezon- tamar.
And there went out the king of Sodom, and the king of Gomorrah, and the king of
Admah, and the king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (the same is Zoar;) and
they joined battle with them in the vale of Siddim;
With Chedorlaomer the king of Elam, and with Tidal king of nations, and Amraphel
king of Shinar, and Arioch king of Ellasar; four kings with five.
And the vale of Siddim was full of slimepits; and the kings of Sodom and
Gomorrah fled, and fell there; and they that remained fled to the mountain.
And they took all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all their victuals, and
went their way.
And they took Lot, Abram’s brother’s son, who dwelt in Sodom, and his goods,
Nevertheless the people be strong that dwell in the land, and the cities are
walled, and very great: and moreover we saw the children of Anak there.
The Amalekites dwell in the land of the south: and the Hittites, and the
Jebusites, and the Amorites, dwell in the mountains: and the Canaanites dwell by
the sea, and by the coast of Jordan.
And Caleb stilled the people before Moses, and said, Let us go up at once, and
possess it; for we are well able to overcome it.
But the men that went up with him said, We be not able to go up against the
people; for they are stronger than we.
And they brought up an evil report of the land which they had searched unto the
children of Israel, saying, The land, through which we have gone to search it,
is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof; and all the people that we saw
in it [are] men of a great stature.
And Moses said, Wherefore now do ye transgress the commandment of the LORD? but
it shall not prosper.
Go not up, for the LORD [is] not among you; that ye be not smitten before your
For the Amalekites
and the Canaanites are there before you, and ye shall fall by the sword: because
ye are turned away from the LORD, therefore the LORD will not be with you.
But they presumed
to go up unto the hill top: nevertheless the ark of the covenant of the LORD,
and Moses, departed not out of the camp.
Then the Amalekites came
down, and the Canaanites which dwelt in that hill, and smote them, and
discomfited them, even unto Hormah.
The reference to Joshua is much clearer:
Then spake Joshua to the LORD in the day when the LORD delivered up the Amorites
before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, Sun, stand
thou still upon Gibeon; and thou, Moon, in the valley of Ajalon.
And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged
themselves upon their enemies. Is not this written in the book of Jasher? So the
sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole
And there was no day like that before it or after it, that the LORD hearkened
unto the voice of a man: for the LORD fought for Israel.
As the Senior Warden invests him with the
distinguishing badge of a Fellow Craft he mentions, almost casually, that it is
to mark the “progress” has made in the “science” – and so establishes
the basis for Masonic education. A basis which is amplified in the Charge after
investiture in which he is told that he is expected to make the Liberal Arts and
Sciences his future study. And he is told why he should do so (to be better
enabled to discharge his duty as a Freemason, and estimate the wondrous works of
the Almighty Creator). He has already been introduced to the idea of the Liberal
Arts and Sciences when, in the Charge after Initiation, he was told “… to
study more, especially such of the liberal arts and sciences as may lie within
the compass of your attainment …”
The concept of progress is further reinforced
in the Charge in the SE when he is told why he is placed there and that, having
been made aware of the principles of moral truth and virtue in the First Degree,
he is now expected, not only to study the liberal arts and sciences, but to
extend his researches into the hidden mysteries of nature and science. The
reference to “research” is surely intended to tell him that it is not all
going to be handed to him on a platter – he is going to have to do some work
What follows then is an utter revelation –
he is presented with, in my opinion, one of the finest Charges in Freemasonry
– the Working Tools of a Fellow Craft Freemason. In the First Degree Tracing
Board he learned the fundamental basis for the philosophy of Freemasonry which,
as we have already seen, lays
out the moral code of behaviour which every Freemason is expected to observe. He
is now told that the Working Tools of the Second Degree symbolise not only these
elements but extend them to include equality and behaviour. The prose which
describes how we ought to behave is worthy of the language of Shakespeare
(“… to steer the bark of this life over the seas of passion without quitting
the helm of rectitude…”) and is it surprising that Shakespeare had Hamlet
wondering about how he should act in order to ensure that the standards and
objectives of equality and behaviour are preserved? “…Whether ’tis nobler
in the mind to suffer the outrageous fortunes of slings and arrows or to take
arms against a sea of trouble and by opposing end them. … I do not know Why
yet I live to say ‘This thing’s to do;’ Sith I have cause and will and
strength and means To do’t. …” The implication is that equality and
standards of behaviour are hard won and have to be defended. If this is not to
be the case then, clearly, we do not have eternity in view. Not by violent
means, of course – that would not fit with the Masonic Code. Rather, think of
defence in terms of, say, Mahatma Ghandi.
The Lecture on the Second Degree Tracing
Board discusses some of the symbolism we have already considered. Consideration
of this lecture is worthy of a complete paper in its own right but it is worth
considering some of the numerology because it describes to the Candidate the
political structure of a Lodge.
There are, according to Cooper[xiii]
considerable use of numbers that possess hidden meanings – in much the same
way, he writes, that symbols are used. The most obvious of these is the division
of the staircase. The lecture states “This winding staircase consisted of
fifteen steps. Our traditions divide them into three flights consisting
severally of three, five and seven steps; thus symbolising the three who rule a
Lodge, the five who hold a Lodge and the seven who make it perfect.”
The implication we might normally take from
this is the description given in the opening of the Lodge in the First Degree
– the Principal Officers, the Other Officers, and the usual implication that a
Lodge cannot be opened if less than 7 Masons are present. Cooper, however,
explains this in another way:
‘rule’ a Lodge because three ruled over the building K.S.T. (Hiram King of
Tyre, Hiram Abif and, of course, King Solomon himself). Five ‘hold’ a Lodge,
which is an allusion to the five orders of architecture (Tuscan, Doric, Ionic,
Corinthian and Composite), as well as the five senses (touch, sight, hearing,
smell, taste). Seven or more make a perfect Lodge, referring to the seven and
more years it took to build the temple. Seven also refers to the seven liberal
arts and sciences (grammar, rhetoric, logic, arithmetic, geometry, music, and
astronomy) that the Second degree encourages the new Mason to study in order to
improve his mind for the betterment of all mankind. The references to the
numbers needed to rule, hold and perfect a Lodge may have derived from the
earliest known rituals.”
analyses some of the questions and answers in the Edinburgh Registry MS (which
we have already considered) as:
Does no less make a true and perfect lodge, An: yes five masons and three
entered apprentices &c.
question asks what happens if the numbers to form a ‘true and perfect Lodge’
are unavailable. The answer is, rather, reluctantly, that a Lodge meeting can be
held if there are five master masons (fellows of the craft) and three entered
Does no less, An: The more the merrier the fewer the better cheer
question asks what happens if even five masters and three entered apprentices
cannot be found for a meeting. The answer is that no meeting can be held but
instead some socialising is OK!”
There are some other implications for the
number 7. The seven Officers (Master, Wardens,
Deacons, Inner Guard and Tyler), represent seven aspects of consciousness
psychologically co-ordinated into a unity known as a “just and perfect
Lodge.” (The seven aspects of consciousness could be defined, in no particular
order, as Unity [the whole], Autonomy [we work within ourselves], Closure
[operationally closed and self-organised], Perception [how we bring forth our
world], Love [emotions], Surrender [to the history of our connections] and
Knowledge). Just as a Man without all of these seven faculties may be considered
insane, so a Lodge would be imperfect and unable to perform proper and effective
work without its seven officers. The number seven can also be considered to
represent completeness. There are seven colours in the rainbow, seven notes in a
musical scale, and seven days in a week. Finally, the Charge after Passing
impresses on the Candidate what I prefer to call personal obligations. He is
told that to meet the exacting standards of behaviour expected of a Freemason he
Conform to principles of the Order
Practice every virtue
Be of good behaviour
Preserve the ancient usages and customs
Support and maintain the laws and regulations of the Craft
Not aggravate and palliate offences of Brethren
Judge with candour
Admonish with friendship
Reprehend with mercy
Honour and obey all regular Signs and Summonses
Encourage industry and reward merit
Supply wants and relieve necessities
Not wrong a Brother, or allow any Brother to be wronged
Appraise a Brother of impending danger
View a Brother’s interests as inseparable from one’s own
So, is Jones correct when he says that the
Second Degree is merely an extension of the First Degree – a
“stepping-stone” to a “richer” experience?
I think not.
This is a most important step for a man to
take. In my opinion it rivals Neil Armstrong’s step. There can be no doubt
that labour is extremely important, and the lessons which physical labour,
determination and perseverance can impart are lessons for life. But how, without
intellect, can it be possible to develop a philosophy which gives that life
meaning? And without learning and training, how can we develop intellect?
All references to ritual are to that of the Grand Lodge of New Zealand.
“Hamlet”, William Shakespeare, Act III, Scene 1
ibid. Act IV Scene 4
Grand Lodge of New Zealand, Introduction to the Book of Constitution:
originally from the “Ancient Charges and Regulations of a Free-Mason” from
“The Constitutions of the Free-Masons”, Rev James Anderson, 1723.
“The Freemason at Work” Harry Carr, A Lewis (Masonic Publishers) Ltd, 6th
edition 1981, ISBN 0 85318 126 8, p373.
“Cracking the Freemason’s Code” Robert L.D. Cooper, Rider, 2006,
ISBN-10: 1-8460-4049-3, ISBN-13: 978-8460-4049-8, p.83.
“Freemason’s Guide and Compendium” Bernard E.
Jones PAGDC, George G. Harrap & Company, New Edition, 1950, p. 292