Symbolism of the First Degree
Neither Naked nor Clothed — Character is independent of such considerations as wealth, or position or achievement. In Lodge, all Masons stand on the same level.
Neither Barefoot nor Shod — Members sincerely desire to cooperate with the Lodge. The candidate gives one of his shoes to the Lodge to testify to his good faith and willingness to be taught, as men in the East have done in all ages before us.
Hood-winked — The candidate admits that he is “in darkness” and wishes to be enlightened. In other words, he will proceed with an open mind, unprejudiced and free of dogmatic opinion.
Deprived of Minerals and Metals — Individual wealth or special ability counts for nothing in the building of character; nor does either take the place of character. Even with these advantages, man is always dependent on his fellows.
Cable-Tow — The word “cable-tow” devolves from early operative masons. Symbolically, the candidate is bound to and dependent upon the Lodge (i.e., to the Brethren and the rest of mankind) as an infant is bound to the mother by the life cord. It also symbolizes the dependency of the individual on God.
Taken by the Right Hand — A candidate must be trusting and willing to be guided through experiences and knowledge with which he is unfamiliar.
Three Knocks — The inquiring mind of the candidate makes known his demand for information and instruction.
The Examination at the Door — The questions and answers exchanged at the door symbolize the caution and care of the Lodge that no one be allowed to enter unless he is ready, willing and qualified to learn and work in cooperation with the Craft.
Reception The candidate’s first symbolic lesson within the Lodge expresses the cardinal importance of maintaining Masonic secrets.
Invocation — The candidate learns the principal concept that the Lodge operates under the direction and by order of the Supreme Architect of the Universe.
Declaration of Candidate — The candidate acknowledges the principle of trust in God.
Perambulation — The candidate proceeds from the West to the East, i.e., from darkness toward light. He also moves in the same direction as the sun, i.e., according to natural laws and truth, as understood by human wisdom through the centuries.
The First Step — There is no easy road to learning. All progress in knowledge is by steps. This truth is apparent to everyone but is frequently forgotten.
The Oblong Square — The Entered Apprentice’s work is good, but does not measure up to the standards of a Master Mason’s work. He makes an oblong (i.e., imperfect) square, which is the term formerly applied to a rectangle.
Erect Toward the Worshipful Master — The candidate must be upright in gaining knowledge.
The Obligation — The obligation is primarily a tie to the Fraternity, not a promise or oath. It marks the transition from being examined to receiving light. After taking his obligation, the candidate is for the first time addressed as Brother.
Three Great Lights – — The three leading principles of Masonic philosophy are presented. First, there is a Supreme Architect whose eye is All-Seeing (symbolized by the light over the Altar) and who gives directions to the Craft (symbolized by the Sacred Book). Second, the Architect directs man to be upright and just (symbolized by the Square). Finally, man’s conscience and will enable him to know and obey these directions (symbolized by the Compasses).
These symbols eloquently convey the principles of Masonry, that by exercising self-control and following the voice of conscience, the Craft produces square work as taught by the Supreme Architect and as directed by the Master. There are other explanations of these symbols, all expressing the same general ideas. For instance, the Compasses are said to represent the Craft, and the Square stands for the Master. It is also said that the Square stands for man’s intellect and morality while the Compasses depict the world.
Three Lesser Lights — The character of man is strengthened by two divergent qualities. He must have energy and initiative; he must also be tactful, resourceful and adaptive. If he cannot eliminate an obstacle, he must go around it. The idea symbolized by the Three Lesser Lights is that he should combine these divergent qualities in carrying out the orders of the Supreme Architect.
The Sun, from ancient times, has always been a symbol of the masculine qualities of energy and force. The Moon symbolizes the feminine qualities of adaptability and tact. To be energetic at the right time and to compromise at the right time is to be a Master (hence the reference made to Sun, Moon and Master).
Placing the three lights in a triangular position symbolizes the need to combine these divergent forces to succeed in life. In former times, when Lodges were illuminated by candles, the Three Lesser Lights were represented by three candlesticks placed in a triangular position around the altar. Even today, many Lodges continue to group white, blue and red candles around the altar as a variation of the lights normally located at the stations of the Master and Wardens. This is commonly done in the Entered Apprentice Degree.
The Word — The work of an Apprentice is primarily rough and is the foundation for further work by more skilled craftsmen. The object of a foundation is to give strength to the structure or achievement. Hence, the word of this degree denotes strength.
Manner of Communication — The method for disposing the word can be traced to old operative ritual and is used as a practical device to preserve the secrecy of the Craft.
Due-Guard or Dieu Garde and Sign — Dieu garde, literally translated, means “God guard me.” The symbols represent the Apprentice’s first rough hewing in building character, the Four Cardinal Virtues. Without the observance of these virtues there is no character. By giving the Due-Guard and Sign the candidate says: “I strive to be temperate, brave, prudent and just; and I do so sincerely, remembering my obligation.”
The Apron — The Apron was a practical article used by operative masons in their work. From the earliest of times, it has also served as a badge or decoration. Priests wore aprons. The symbolic significance of the Apprentice donning an Apron is not that he is pure, but that he is striving for purity of life and conduct.
Flap Turned Up — This tradition is merely a convenient method of distinguishing apprentices from other workmen and is probably derived from an operative custom.
The Rite of Destitution — The dependence of mankind on one another is often overlooked in practical life, but is as much a condition of our existence as the air we breathe. Masonic philosophy is practical. It bids us to use common sense, work with facts and limit our charity to a level “without injury to self or family,” since charity begins at home.
Northeast Corner — The first stone is placed at the Northeast Corner because that is the beginning, the line where darkness (North) ends, and light (East) begins. This custom is as old as mankind. The ceremony symbolizes a beginning, not only for the candidate, but also for the Lodge, as each Entered Apprentice renews the life of the Lodge.
Working Tools — These tools are simple and elementary. The first operations of construction are measurement (planning and laying out) and rough-hewing (shaping).
The lecture explains the ritual of the first section and uses symbolic expressions that require explanation. Their real meaning is frequently deeper than appears on the surface.
No Sound of Axe, Hammer or any Tool of Iron — The Temple of character is built silently. Character is a combination of traits and habits, each of which has been developed and acquired by painstaking effort. Emerson said: “What you are speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.” Character is seen, not heard.
The Lodge — The Lodge symbolizes the whole world, the northern part of which is a place of darkness as it represents that portion of mankind that has not yet awakened to the Masonic philosophy of universal work and brotherhood. The Celestial Lodge above is to be reached not by Faith or Hope alone, although they aid in gaining admission to the Celestial Lodge, but by Charity. The word “charity” as used in the King James Version of the Bible is often today translated as “Love”, indicating a generous and giving spirit.
Pavement — The Masonic world has a Mosaic Pavement, checkered with good and evil, for not all Masons are good Masons. It is surrounded by the Indented Tessel (i.e., happiness attainable if the Architect’s rules of conduct are observed) and in its center is the Blazing Star (i.e., the Architect, the Supreme Leader and Guide of the Fraternity).
Pillars — The Temple is supported by Three Great Pillars. The three great principles of operation are, wise planning; sound, thorough work and harmony, and grace (i.e., Wisdom, Strength and Beauty). These are the Master and Wardens of human life and conduct.
Ashlars — The six Jewels represent subordinate ideas in the development of character. The Brethren are working to remove the more crude and superfluous aspects of their lives, thereby seeking perfection, hence the Rough and Perfect Ashlars.
Trestle-Board — The concept of Building the Temple is eloquently expressed by the reference to the use of the Trestle-Board. The great books of Nature and Revelation are our spiritual, moral and Masonic Trestle-Board.
Lodges Should be Situated Due East and West — The Fraternity should ever look toward the East as a source of enlightenment.
The Point Within a Circle — This ancient symbol represents, in general, the unity of the individual and the Lodge. The individual (Point) surrounded by his Brethren (Circle) operates within the precepts laid down by the Architect (Holy Book) and under the patronage of St. John the Baptist (the crusader or reformer) and St. John the Evangelist (the philosopher or thinker).
The Four Cardinal Virtues — Temperance, fortitude, prudence and justice are the landmarks of character.
Chalk, Charcoal and Clay — An Apprentice, or learner, should always be open to instruction and suggestion. The slightest touch of advice or information should leave its trace on his knowledge and judgment (Chalk). He should be zealous and enthusiastic, and keep his interest in knowledge glowing (Charcoal). He should always be available and capable of being molded according to the dictates of reason and the teachings of the Supreme Architect (Clay). The corresponding words of the ritual are freedom, fervency and zeal.
In operative masonry, the young beginner served at an entry level long enough to demonstrate his fitness, after which his name was entered on the books of the Lodge as an Entered Apprentice. So does the Speculative Mason, after he has been found worthy for initiation and has sincerely assented to the preliminary questions, become an Entered Apprentice.
This degree is symbolic of the days of our youth, but it also represents the ideal conduct of man in every stage of life. No matter how skilled he may become in one line of endeavor or another, he should never rest content with what he has accomplished, but always be an apprentice in life, seeking further knowledge for the benefit of himself and mankind. The true Mason never ceases to work and learn as long as he retains good health.
Symbolism of the Second Degree
Preparation — The use of the right foot and the right hand is complementary to the use of the left in the First Degree. The idea represented is the necessity for balanced and dual development, the importance of tempering idealism with knowledge and experience. This is the Double Tie by which the candidate is now bound to the Fraternity.
Jewels – Knocking symbolizes asking or inquiry. The true Fellow Craft displays a sincere desire to learn. He listens to instruction (Attentive Ear), he strives to master his studies (Instructive Tongue) and he is persistent, diligent and earnest (Faithful Breast).
The Pass — The Pass is given for the candidate, not by him, because he has not yet acquired the quality which the Pass represents. He must first climb the Winding Stairs; in other words, he must learn the importance of the Pass by actual experience. At the door he is merely vouched for as one likely to acquire the ability to give the Pass.
Reception — The Square symbolizes all the tools of skill. The fashioning workman constructs, as distinguished from the apprentice who merely rough-hews and shapes.
Obligation: “Will not communicate” — Development must be attained step by step. It is futile to teach skills to one who has not first developed a high standard of morals. Therefore, the teachings of the second degree should not be communicated to an Entered Apprentice.
“Help, aid and assist” — The interdependence of men is one of the strongest bonds of society and promotes reciprocal love and friendship, so important to the Fraternity.
Off or From — In life, man should continually ask himself whether he should stop before further proceeding to develop his skills and knowledge.
Working Tools — In mid-life, a man constructs and builds with fashioning tools that require greater skill than the tools of an Entered Apprentice.
Corn, Wine and Oil — The wages of life are health, plenty and peace. Masonic philosophy holds that there is but one way to attain these wages, by the highest exercise of our faculties in subordination to the rule of Charity. This is a law of the Supreme Architect to which each man must conform or pay the penalty.
The second section allegorically presents the development of man’s knowledge through the experience of life. The second degree represents middle age, a time not only for work, but also for education obtained by the experiments, trials and errors of practical life, as contrasted with the lessons derived from mere schooling.
Two Great Pillars According to the Scriptures (I Kings: 7), the two Pilars stood before, but did not support, the porch of Solomon’s Temple. They were 18 cubits high and 12 cubits in circumference. This would make their height approximately six times their diameter, a shape and form suggesting strength and stability.
The Masonic Pillars do not, in all respects, follow the description contained in the Bible. The ritual gives their height as 35 cubits, but the diameter is not stated. They support globes, representing the terrestrial world on the one hand, the celestial world on the other.
Similar Pillars were commonly erected in front of the Egyptian temples, on which the Hebrews based their architectural ideas. The symbolic purpose of the Pillars may have been originally suggested by the Pillars of Hercules, the great rocks which lie at the entrance to the Mediterranean Sea at the Straits of Gibraltar, then the entrance to the known world.
Passing between the Pillars symbolizes entrance into the world of active life with the added suggestion that it is a world of dual nature, partaking both of earth and heaven, indicated by the terrestrial and celestial globes. The strength accorded by the design of the Pillars typifies the level of human development necessary in this world; that such development is to be acquired by skill and knowledge is symbolized by the fact that the Pillars were cast by a master artisan.
The charts often displayed in Lodges depart from the ritual to a certain extent. The Pillars shown on the charts are high, narrow and graceful; as such, they do not suggest strength and stability. Many extraneous objects are shown on the chart so as to make it difficult to identify the objects important to this degree. According to the ritual, the only objects which should be represented on the chart are the two Pillars, the Flight of Winding Stairs and the Inner and Outer Doors.
Flight of Winding Stairs – Education and achievement call for constant effort. The development of his faculties requires man to be ever climbing upward, step by step. The development of people is the central objective of Nature.” Development requires the expenditure of energy.
There are three reasons why the stairs are winding. First, advancement in knowledge is spiral. In acquiring skill or mastering a problem, a man keeps turning the subject in his mind, gradually seeing it more clearly, until he finally comprehends the subject.
Second, man’s achievements are commonly not what he set out to accomplish. He strives toward a particular end but finds that the result is not at all what he expected. Great inventions like the X-ray and the vulcanizing of rubber were the result of research by men seeking something else.
Third, man climbs the stairs of life, but what he believes to be his goal may be only an illusion. The purpose and end of his striving is not for him to decide, but rather for the Supreme Architect. The future is never straight up or straight ahead, but is always partially hidden from our view. God knows what He would have done. The workman’s duty is to work.
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reciprocate by assisting our fellow man. Our labors should tend to advance society, as we should work for the good of mankind, not for ourselves alone.
Five represents the faculties we use in climbing the Stairs. There are more than five senses, but the five mentioned symbolically represent them all. The first three are particularly essential because they are the most necessary to our intellectual and moral development.
Seven represents the grand divisions of knowledge which constitute the application man makes of his faculties. When Masonic ritual was written by William Preston in the 18th century, education was more formal and academic than it is today and the “seven liberal arts and sciences” were considered to constitute universal knowledge. This is not intended to be taken as a literal statement of what constitutes an education. The present form of the lecture is a greatly abridged version of the earlier ritual that provided Masons with learning that they could not obtain elsewhere, because 18th century England did not have public common schools. Modern ritual serves only to suggest symbolically the dignity and importance of knowledge.
The Pass — The Ephraimites, when called upon to give the Word, could not pronounce it correctly. Their failure was slight; nevertheless it was failure and disaster that overtook them. A workman’s prime qualification is accuracy or clearness of comprehension. Although ninety-nine per cent of his work may be perfect, if he fails in the remaining one per cent, his failure may be complete. The true Fellow Craft must not only learn, he must thoroughly learn. He must not guess; he must know; he must be accurate.
A little learning is a dangerous thing. The habit of relying on superficial knowledge is all too common. Many people think that knowledge and skill are a mere trick, the result of a magic formula that can be passed along or bought for a fee. Many also jump to conclusions, fail to observe, listen inattentively, falsely assume an understanding and are satisfied with giving an impression of knowledge. Those who rely on superficial knowledge have sown the seeds of their own failure. They are the Ephraimites of life and do not have the Pass. The Craftsman does not comprehend the Pass until after he has climbed the Winding Stairs; i.e., until he has gained an understanding of the need for accuracy from actual experience.
The Word — The Craftsman, in addition to having the Pass, must also have the Word. The Pass is a preliminary qualification (Outer Door); the Word is the final qualification (Inner Door). Stability implies more than strength; it means persistence of strength, the capacity to endure, to withstand wear and tear, to function in use. The Word is the complement of the Pass.
The Letter “G” — The word Geometry is derived from the Greek words Ge (earth or world) and Metrein (to measure), and literally means the science of measuring and analyzing the universe. Masonically speaking, Geometry comprehends all science, art and philosophy as well as all skill and learning. In the final analysis, all knowledge can be defined as an understanding of the world in which we live, its laws and forces, and the living beings which inhabit it. Thomas Huxley said: “Education is the instruction of the intellect in the laws of Nature, and the acquisition of the ability to conform to those laws.”
A Mason who grasps this truth with all its implications will follow the philosophy of an old cabinet maker who was quoted in a newspaper interview:
“It is often said that God moves in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform. What they mean is that they do not understand why everything isn’t smooth sailing. But if they study nature, and that’s the best evidence we have of God’s plan, they’ll soon see that it is a balanced business, the good with the bad, the tree with the straight grain and the tree with the knots.
Then a fellow reaches an age when he knows enough to expect knots. The sooner the better, but if he learns it before 35 he’s lucky. He learns that, if he puts his best into his work, he gets the best back that there is in life. He tries to avoid splinters, but expects some just the same. He tries not to hurt anyone and to ignore them if they hurt him. Then, no matter what comes, he is happy in his own conscience.”
Double Allusion — All the discoveries of science demonstrate that the natural world is no haphazard collection of things and forces, but a system and design governed by universal laws. All living things can be classified by tribes or species. Every animal has a balanced and proportioned structure, and functions by rule. Every plant and tree grows in a geometric pattern. The great natural forces operate systematically.
Furthermore, the universe is a place of vitality and energy. Nature is continually constructing and experimenting. The animals of today are the product of a long evolution, the latest in a series of species extending back thousands of years. The same is true of plants and even of man himself.
This evolutionary process is still going on. A survey of Nature discloses a place of symmetry, order and creative power. Geometry is said to be the science of harmony in space, presiding over everything. And this universal geometry tells us of a Universal Geometrician whose divine compass has measured all things.
Such are the thoughts symbolized in the double allusion of the Letter “G.” Geometry is placed near the top of the Winding Stairs. It is particularly essential to Masons because a study of Geometry leads to the conviction that the universe was planned and designed by a Supreme Intelligence or Architect who directs our work and from whom we receive our wages.
Why the Letter “G” is Used — A tenet of Hebrew theology provides that the name of Deity should never be pronounced, but always be represented by a symbol. It is merely a coincidence that the English letter “G” represents both God and Geometry.
Freemasonry Still Survives — Freemasonry so strongly lives in the minds, hearts and souls of its supporters, and it is so much more than a material thing, that it cannot be destroyed. Masonic philosophy is deeply embedded in man and its survival demonstrates its truth. Through the ages, it has resisted ignorance, laziness and selfishness, as well as the disregard for the rules of the Trestle-Board and attacks by those opposed to the principles of Masonic beliefs.
The Second Degree emphasizes the dignity and worth of the individual. It represents man as the instrument of the Supreme Architect, a workman whose duty is to invent, create and achieve, and to express his own individuality and genius. This idea is the cornerstone of democracy or free government, with its institutions designed to encourage the development of individual genius. Its ruling principle is that the State must not interfere with the individual’s freedom to any greater extent than is absolutely necessary to preserve the existence of society in which individual freedom can thrive. Contrary to the principle of free society, it is the fundamental doctrine of absolute governments that the State is everything and the individual nothing. Consequently, the spirit of Masonry as symbolized in this degree is the spirit of America. An understanding of the Fellow Craft Degree will clarify to every candidate and member what Masonry should and can mean to all Master Masons.
Symbolism of the Third Degree
Preparation — The position of the Cable-Tow indicates the increased dependency of the Brethren on each other. The Knocks represent the Jewels, or distinguishing virtues of a Master Mason: the fruits gained by practicing the precepts of this degree. The candidate is barefoot because this is the most solemn degree of all and teaches the deepest truths. A Master’s Lodge is assembled in the Sanctum Sanctorum. “Put off thy shoes from thy feet, for the place wherein thou standest is holy ground.”
Pass — As explained in the Second Degree, the Pass is given for, not by, the candidate. The Fellow Craft needs to thoroughly believe and experience the doctrine of the Second Degree before understanding the Third Degree. Therefore Tubal-cain, who is referred to in the Bible (Genesis 4:22) as “an instructor of every artificer in brass and iron,” was a legendary hero of operative masons. He was of perfect strength and skill, able to perform everything pertaining to the operative art. He was said to be the inventor of the plow and of the first sword. The Greek god Vulcan, the blacksmith god, is supposed to be Tubal-cain under another name.
Reception The principal virtues, or jewels, of a Master Mason are contained in self-control, i.e., they arise from habitual obedience to the voice of conscience. They are as vital to the spiritual life as the heart is to physical existence, hence the application of the Compasses to the breast.
That Which Was Lost – – This is the key to the third degree. The secret that the Master Mason is searching to discover is knowledge of God, truth, and the purpose of living. The allegory of something lost is used to vividly portray the nature of the search. Something lost has an existence; it was once possessed, and therefore it can be found. It is a figure of speech as old as mankind. The Jews represented their search for religious truth as a search for the name of Deity, which they said “had been once known, but lost.” Hence, they never referred to God by name, but by a single letter of His name, as explained in the Second Degree.
The literary search for the Holy Grail is an illustration of the same allegory. We are always on the trail of truth, but never quite reach it. We see it partially and then lose sight of it, yet we are convinced it is there. To learn the secrets of the universe, to know God through nature and through revelation, as laid down in the Trestle-Board, are the aims of a Master Mason. This constitutes the building of the Temple of man. The Temple will not be completed in this world, but the act of building by the workman will bring the Temple nearer to completion.
Square — Many see the philosophy of the first two degrees to be represented by an oblong or imperfect square. They see in the Master Mason’s Degree the perfection or capstone of Masonic philosophy.
Obligation — Some provisions of the Obligation date back to operative days and no doubt originally had a practical purpose derived from the state of manners and customs in those times; others amplify the Obligations of the Second Degree. In the later years of man’s life, he becomes concerned about leaving a widow and orphans, and the interdependency of mankind requires their protection. The dependence of men on each other also increases.
It has been said that the Master Mason’s oath and the Legend of the Third Degree embody the Landmarks of the Craft. They establish the character of the Fraternity’s membership as outlined in the Landmarks.
Both Points Above the Square — The final and perfect result of exercising self-control and obedience to conscience is the attainment of the virtues Friendship, Morality and Brotherly Love, thus completing the philosophy which has been revealed, step by step, through the three degrees.
The Pass Communicated — The communication of the Pass to the candidate symbolizes his comprehension and acceptance of the basis on which the Masonic doctrine of Immortality rests. As the workman does the Master’s work, he partakes of the Master’s nature. This work is performed by our immortal part that survives the grave. Our comprehension of this truth leads us to find our reason for belief in Immortality.
Apron — There is not any particular symbolic significance in the way the Apron is worn in the Third Degree. In many jurisdictions in the United States and England, the Master Mason wears his Apron as a Fellow Craft does in Maine. A general conference was held in the United States in 1843 to try to arrive at an agreement on a uniform custom, but without success.
The Drama is the Golden Legend of Freemasonry that has probably been in the Craft’s possession for centuries. The first written reference to it is in Anderson’s Constitutions (1738) when it was ancient, having come from the old operative ritual. It was not made a specific ceremony until the institution of the Third Degree sometime in the 18th century. The doctrine of the ancient mysteries was that the human soul is immortal and there is life after death.
Symbolism of the Drama — In general, the drama represents the difficulties and temptations that beset man in his search for the Lost Word. Because symbols are only landmarks of thought, more than one interpretation of the drama is possible. The following two are the principal interpretations.
The ruffians are Brother-Masons. Every man has a dual nature, an instinct towards good and an inclination towards evil. His evil nature may suggest to him that this search for the Lost Word is useless. He may reason that worldly experiences show that men seem to attain success in spite of, or even by means of, breaking the moral law; that “the race is not to the swift, or the battle to the strong, but time and chance happeneth to all.” Like the first two ruffians, he is tempted to try to attain the Word by force.
The hero of the drama refuses to yield to this error. He persists in his conviction that the secrets can be obtained only by the search undertaken upon the completion of the Temple, and then only in the presence of perfect Wisdom, perfect Strength and perfect Beauty, the Master and Wardens of morality. Yet, he cannot escape the third ruffian, Death, the last great adversary who inevitably triumphs over his physical body. He falls and is buried in the rubbish of the Temple, but his immortal part, which has been building throughout his life, cannot be destroyed. It survives and is raised, not by a resurrection, but by the hand of the Master of the Lodge, who represents the united assistance and encouragement of the Brethren.
The ruffians may also be regarded as the personification of the external accidents and misfortunes which come to all. The fate of the ruffians suggests that failure to follow the designs laid down on the Trestle-Board brings its own punishment; that there can be no escape from the moral law; that nature has but one judgment for wrong-doing, the judgment of death. The raising after death symbolizes the Masonic faith that death itself is but an incident in our progress toward eternal life.
Substitute Word — The raising is not the true Word, but by a substitute. Man can only approximate truth. If he acts sincerely and according to his best lights, taking heed from failure, he has done all that human fallibility can accomplish. He takes the “first Word spoken” for his guide until wisdom finds a better. He can only search for the Lost Word, and by that very search, he comes nearer to finding it.
The Craftsmen Had Not the Pass — Any attempt to escape from the moral law is futile.
No Raising by EA or FC Grip — No progress toward Immortality is possible except through the philosophy and the fortitude exemplified in this degree. Acceptance of the moral law (First Degree) and building great skill and knowledge (Second Degree) are not enough.
Lion’s Paw — This is an Egyptian symbol of Immortality and is one of the many symbols of our ritual have been used in systems of philosophy and religion dating back to ancient times.
Procession — The procedure followed in Masonic processions is meant to exemplify the idea that the last shall be first, i.e., he that would be Master must first be servant.
Sprig of Acacia — The Acacia is an evergreen plant that is an ancient Hebrew symbol of Immortality. It is used today in Hebrew funeral ceremonies.
Five Points — The method of giving the Word symbolizes quiet, unobtrusive friendship — assistance given readily, speedily, effectively and without ostentatious display.
Pot of Incense — This emblem symbolizes zeal and enthusiasm.
Beehive — The Beehive represents cooperative effort. The Third Degree particularly emphasizes mutual assistance and brotherhood.
Book of Constitutions — The book symbolizes the mutual confidence and privacy of a family.
Forty-Seventh Problem of Euclid — Long referred to as the Pythagorean theorem, this lesson enables the construction of a perfect right angle, essential in all building or construction. The ritualistic reference to the circumstances surrounding its discovery is erroneous. These events actually happened to another mathematician, Archimedes, when he discovered the principle of specific gravity. The sacrifice of a hecatomb (one hundred cattle) is not important symbolically. Pythagoras taught philosophy to students organized in a fraternity and sworn to secrecy, which accounts for the reference to him as a Mason. However, there is no proof that the Pythagorean fraternity had any connection with Freemasonry. Despite the incidental errors, the symbolism of this emblem is suited to its Masonic purpose, since the emblem stands for culture, learning and intellectual curiosity.
Summary – The Masonic Degrees
The three degrees in Freemasonry thus symbolically comprehend the building of character in the construction of one’s individual Temple, which is so essential to the fulfillment of the grand scheme of the Supreme Architect of the Universe.
The First Degree emphasizes the moral foundation of all right living. The Second Degree points the way to the full development of one’s intellectual powers, tempered always by the exercise of Charity in its broadest sense. The Third Degree appeals to man’s spiritual instincts, leaving him with the hope of Immortality.
Freemasonry is a society, yet not simply another association in the congregation of worthwhile societies. It fills a niche and performs a service that is unique. During the dark ages, Freemasonry was virtually the sole repository of the world’s mathematical and architectural wisdom. Through courage and fidelity, it withstood the insidious attacks of universal ignorance and lowered standards. It persevered almost alone through those dark ages and transmitted to the better ages that followed, the wisdom of the past not only in the arts of mathematics and architecture, but also in the Art of Living.
When the rituals of modern speculative Freemasonry were written nearly three centuries ago, the gems of wisdom were culled from the best of all previous schools of religion and philosophy. The ritual contained the lessons of practical living, as transmitted by internal tradition and available history. Modern Freemasonry may therefore claim to be the world’s oldest laboratory for practical and experimental research in the Art of Living. With the overwhelming authority of the experience of ages, Masonry teaches the eternal and unchanging supreme quality on which man is judged, being that of character, for which there is no equal or substitute.