This work is a modern representation of the First Degree Tracing Boards of old. It is filled with metaphor and symbolism, fluent to all Apprentice Masons.
Tracing boards were created as visual mnemonics created to illustrate the meanings and principals of Freemasonry as taught within the degrees. The symbolism is very Western, but the symbolism has been adapted for the modern mason.
In the image there are many symbolic cues. In adapting this piece, the most significant change is the replacing of the Holy Bible with the major religious symbols of the world. These symbols of faith, in my opinion, represent the modern Freemason.
You can read a brief examination of the Apprentice Degree here: Ain Soph to Malkuth – The First Degree of Scottish Rite Freemasonry.
Or, you can read a full exploration of the First Degree of Freemasonry in:
The Apprentice: The World and the Universe as One: A Treatise on the First Degree of Freemasonry
To learn more about The Entered Apprentice Degree, read Pike’s Apprentice degree, from Morals and Dogma, or the Entered Apprentice degree from Duncan’s Ritual and Monitor.
Interested in owning your own First Degree Modern Masonic Tracing Board? You can find the First, Second, and Third Degree Modern Tracing Boards at Imagekind.
Be sure to check out:
Second Degree Masonic Tracing Board
Third Degree Masonic Tracing Board
Image copyright – Freemason Information ©2006-202x, Gregory B. Stewart.
All rights reserved. Image above may not be copied without the expressed written consent of its owner, Gregory Stewart, Freemason Information.
The tracing entitled First Degree looks like it really belongs to the second section of the second degree (a.k.a. Middle Chamber Lecture). The working tools shown are from the Second Degree (the plumb, square and level) instead of the First Degree’s 24-inch guage and common gavel. Jacob’s Ladder ascending to Heaven is not part of the First Degree – again part of the Middle Chamber Lecture. I believe, of the tracings you show, that the one of Saint John and John The Baptist are more appropriately associated with the First Degree, unless you have other artwork in process. Thanks for the opportunity to comment.
Mike, Thanks for the note. I can see what you are suggesting for the board, and the thoughts did cross my mind when I originally put them together. In part, the boards are not a “complete; puzzle, in that to truly see them in light of what they represent, they require some physical adornments to augment them (a play on the idea of a terrestrial and celestial idea). Ideally, below the displayed board, the degree working tools would be displayed, and on the frame, the tassels of cardinal points would be hung. I go into more of these details in a piece I place in my new book Masonic Traveler which goes into the esoteric elements on the board in much greater detail.
Quick comment on the plumb, square and level:
This is a source of confusion when looking at a 1st Degree board until you realize that they are present not as working tools, but as the Moveable Jewels of the Lodge.
Hope that makes sense.
This is an artistic falsehood and does not at all marry with the EAF Degree at all. The ‘designer’ seems to not know what the symbols at the bottom of the piece mean, having merely placed those for the sake of artistic merit and rendered the entire piece worthless.
Sojourner, I appreciate the comments. I’m curious what artistic falsehood means exactly, is the work of art false, as in not real? And as for the symbols at the bottom, I’m not entirely sure I understand what you mean in saying the symbols make the overall work worthless, how so?
I have just this night returned on my first degree. I know that will properly portray to all of you my level of masonic knowledge of the symbols contained in this work. Perhaps I know too little to comment. However, I doubt the phrase “Mysteries of Freemasonry” would be new to any one here, either. This piece, to me at least, is recognizably masonic. The fact that I have not learned yet the masonic meanings in some of the symbols does nothing but increase the mystery and inticipation of things to come. I may have a different opinion once I have reached a higher degree and obtained the respective knowledge. However, as this piece is apparently intended for a first degree audiance, I must applaud it.
That’s some pretty tough talk up there. Not very brotherly. But I do agree that this picture needs to be re-titled. It appears that the artist has just looked at other Masonic works and tried to copy and fuse them. The symbolism of this picture goes beyond that of the 1st Degree and does not include certain other key AE symbols. I don’t think the artist is an initiate.
I have not found the 24 inch gauge, nor the common gavel in the presentation. One must do some more serious study.
Excellent points. Yet, as those implements are physical, they would exist outside of the temporal plane of the illustration. That was, at the time of the images making, the reason for their exclusion.
Toutes mes salutation a vous mes f
I love this rendering of the first degree tracing board; the explanation of which is my Masonic ‘party piece’.
Most of the elements from the explanation are depicted beautifully. I especially like the update of the movable jewels (correctly identified as such by Skeldaddy above) to a modern spirit level and plum bob.
If Jerald did some serious study he would realise that the working tools of the degree are not shown even on traditional TBs).
The only thing I cannot see is the tracing board or first immovable jewel (yes, the tracing board has a picture of another tracing board in it). Am I missing some of your symbolism?
The explanation of the 1st Tracing Board is one of the most important parts in explaining what Freemasonry is about. Equality is most important to Freemasons. We do not exclude anyone from our meetings no matter what their religion or beliefs. That is true equality. It is a shame that the humanity of this world we live in; does not encompass the same beliefs.
I have personally learnt and remembered the contents of the 1st Tracing Board Work. In Freemasonry we call this’work’ because that is what the ancient Freemasons did. I have delivered this “work” on a number of occasions in Lodge.
I do that, because I believe in the truth of what it contains. Freemasonry is not a secret society. We are only too happy to reveal our charity and work to anyone who is interested. You can join and leave whenever you so desire. Some of the greatest humanists in our history have been Freemasons.