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Fellow of the Craft, the book

This was written as a second attempt at approaching how to introduce the new book Fellow of the Craft – a Treatise on the Second Degree of Freemasonry.


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Fellow of the Craft – a Treatise on the Second Degree of Freemasonry

The challenge has been in how to reveal something that is and should be already apparent and known. That is not meant as flippant or assuming. To the contrary, it is to express a sentiment we are each taught from the very earliest of days in our Masonic upbringing, that our progress is measured and celebrated in what we learn and how we grow from those lessons. That is the heart of what it means to be passed as a Fellow of the Craft.

That craft is the intangibility behind the scenes of doing Freemasonry. It’s in the catechism, the lessons of association and the mechanism by which good men become better. The intangibility comes in the day-to-day lessons of knowledge we gain and its byproduct of wisdom. Certainly, it has been written and codified in a myriad of teachings esoteric and exoteric, hidden in plain sight and cloaked in unintelligible symbols the meaning of which we devote lives to the study of.

So then, the becoming of a fellow is the degree of passing, the movement through time and space such that its transit is imperceptible and shapes our moral vantage point.

The importance of it all is in how we go about that transit. This is the heart of BECOMING – the path of time and space along the curve of the compass turn. In a more esoteric sense, it is the replication of the first which makes two – the same unit in its polar opposite, the Janus head or the opposite side of the same coin.

This understanding may seem unimportant, but that is not the case. It is as important as becoming the reflected image in the mirror who stares back in contemplation as one gazes into their soul. It is you, the same but no longer the Apprentice. It is as a fellow amongst many on that journey.

So would have begun the Fellow of the Craft. What was that alternate path? You can find that answer and more in the release of the new book Fellow of the Craft – a Treatise on the Second Degree of Freemasonry.

Fellow of the Craft is out now and available on Amazon in traditional hardbound and Kindle ebook format. Also available, The Apprentice – a Treatise on the First Degree of Freemasonry.

double headed eagle

By Wisdom a House is Built – The Path of Tav

Scottish Rite, AASR, double headed eagle, janusThe following is the introduction to the Fellow of the Craft, a book on the second degree of Scottish Rite Masonry.  Where and when the final work will see publication is still to be determined.  In the mean time, I thought it would be good to share and discuss.

In totality, the Rite degree differs from the Webb-Preston ritual, as it lends itself to the 32 degrees of Scottish Rite progression.  From a traditionalist point of view, these degrees may seem heretical in that they lend themselves to see the 32 degree progression, a divergence from the idea of “no degree greater than the third.”

The title of this complete work is By Wisdom a House is Built which stems from the degree prayer In strength shall this, my house, be established which in itself comes from the 24th Proverb whose 3rd and fourth verse reads:

By wisdom a house is built,
and through understanding it is established;
through knowledge its rooms are filled
with rare and beautiful treasures.

The degree of becoming a Fellow of the Craft is, in essence, the building of ones house from foundation to eaves.

This work follows in line with the first installment Ain Soph to Malkuth – the first degree of Scottish Rite Freemasonry

Intelligence to understand, Honesty to guide intelligence, Courage to act, Prudence to guide courage, and Love to humanity composed of the four others….

…By wisdom a house is built,
and through understanding it is established…

The true alchemist will extract the lessons of wisdom from the babblings of folly…

kabbalah, Cabbalah, tree of life, Hermetic QabalahThe second degree is our enigma. Having undertaken the ritual and trials of the first degree, we now are at a crux in that we are in one aspect the coalesced form of Malkuth yet faced with our next stage of evolution, an evolution that necessitates our further need to be transformed and given shape for the tasks before us both here and beyond this degree. To do this we need to study and learn – not simply what it means to be a mason but how that practical application applies to the world around us and our interactions on the material influences that we encounter. Why we do this, you will remember, is to relate our own elemental being, as Malkuth, to the elemental world in which we have both become and inhabit. We are Malkuth, the elemental world, and need to now traverse the path of Tav upon the pillar of mercy towards our apex in the craft lode in becoming Master. But, we are getting ahead of ourselves and must first begin our lesson of the Second Degree and the implementation of our will into manifested action to act the square to all mankind. This is our summation of all things, our end which is without end. In the Christian VSL, it begins with the utterance of the Great Architect in saying “Let there be LVX“, and then there was LVX. So too, as LVX was created man become the blazing star of LVX so too uttering our creative force. To realize that vision, as a traveler, we must climb the steps and reach our gnosis which we do through our wisdom journey to surmount the three steps of our existence, the five steps out antiquity, and the seven steps of knowledge, and only there at the top can we acknowledge our being as a fellow of the craft as it is there that we find our self – the man made manifest as he knocks upon the door of greater illumination. As the warning above the temple door reads, “Know Thyself” because “as what you seek you already are.” Little in this journey will change you in a manner you may expect. Rather it is in the subtle shifting of thought that the greatest and most noble developments will occur. This is the middle chamber, the way before the Holy of Holies which is where the need to transform must take place before venturing forward. While these ideas may seem strange and foreign know that they have been a manner of practice for millennia in the houses of wisdom and schools of the sacred. We cannot say with certainty these ideas existed in their present form but in a manner of cause and effect they have been a part of this sacred practice to bring its students from the earthly state to the celestial so as to see the various heavenly apartments above us in the unfolding universe. This is the mystic tie that binds us – as a fellow of the craft, as a lodge, as a member of humankind, and as one can imagine to the Great Creator. In this chain of union, the brilliance of the sun illuminates us, and the moon and stars sing us the glories of the divine harmony of Truth. As the great author Pike says “Light! All comes from Light, and all returns to it.” Of the many great lessons of this degree to be learned this is the most important to understand.

As the great book itself says, “Let there be LVX!”

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Read more about the Fellow of the Craft in the Symbolic Lodge.

Fellowcraft of Freemasonry

Symbolism on the Winding Staircase – Five Steps Upon the Stair

Five Steps Upon the Winding Staircase

Modern Masonic second degree tracing board art

The second degree lecture holds a wealth of esoteric study and contemplation. In the preceding examination we looked at the depth and meaning of the first three steps as the conductor in Duncan’s Ritual and Monitor ushers the candidate into the allegorical chamber of King Solomon’s temple.  Now, the candidate is faced with a further rise of steps, Five to be exact, which is described in this text taken directly from Duncan’s Ritual and Monitor of Freemasonry:

Stepping forward to the five steps, he continues:

The five steps allude to the five orders of architecture and the five human senses.

The five orders of architecture are Tuscan, Doric, Ionic, Corinthian, and Composite.

Masonic Orders of Architecture

For any brother reading, it’s important to take a moment to look anew at your monitor, if supplied with one, to reacquaint the reference as it relates specifically to Masonry.  From an exoteric point of view, we must look to the point of origin to the Orders of Architecture, which turns our attention to the grand father of modern architecture – Vitruvius.

Marcus Vitruvius Pollio

Vitruvius (born c. 80–70 BC, died after c. 15 BC) is described on Wikipedia as having been a Roman writer, architect and engineer (possibly praefectus fabrum , the man in charge, during military service or praefect architectus armamentarius, the man in charge of architecture, of the apparitor status group), active in the 1st century BC.  By his own description Vitruvius served as a Ballista (artilleryman), the third class of arms in the military offices. He likely served as chief of the ballista (senior officer of artillery) in charge of doctor’s ballistarum (artillery experts) and libratores who actually operated the machines.

Vitruvian Man

The Vitruvian Man, as illustrated by Da Vinci, was based on Vitrivius’ proportions from his writings.  Those writings can be found in his collected works, commonly called De Architectura Libri Decem or Vitruvius, the ten books on architecture.  In the work, Vitruvius describes an assortment of things from town planning to aqueducts.

The rediscovery of his work in the Renaissance had a profound influence on architects of the age which started the rise of the Neo-Classical style. Period architects, such as Niccoli, Brunelleschi and Leon Battista Alberti, found in “De Architectura” reason for raising their branch of knowledge to a scientific discipline as well as emphasizing the skills of the artisan.

Further the English architect Inigo Jones, who crafted the Queens House at Greenwich in

Hortus Palatinus at Heidelberg Castle

1616 and the Banqueting house at Whitehall in 1619,  and the French hydraulic engineer  Salomon de Caus who designed the gardens at Somerset House and the Hortus Palatinus in Heidelberg  Germany (known for its then wonders of “a statue that resounded when struck by the rays of the sun, a water-organ, and singing fountains”), and were among the first to rethink and implement the disciplines of Vitruvius which were considered a necessary element of architecture, essentially art and science based upon number and proportion, which was reinvigorating to architecture of the period.  The 16th century architect Andrea Palladio who designed a number of villas, palaces, and churches in and around Venice, considered Vitrivius his master and guide, and made drawings based on Vitruvius’ work before evolving his own architectural precepts.

Inigo Jones, for those who are unfamiliar, is also the author of a Manuscript circa 1607), on the Origin of Masonry, amongst other things.  Lomas, in Freemasonry and the Birth of Modern Science, dates the time of Jones’ Freemasonry as 1607, while he was a surveyor to the crown under James VI.

The idea of divine architecture came directly from Vitruvius’s work as divine proportions were very much a consideration in every design.  In his book of Architecture, in Book IV the middle three pillars, Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian, are described in by their physical traits for use in the temples of their celestial counterparts:

“On finding that, in a man, the foot was one sixth of the height, they applied the same principle to the column, and reared the shaft, including the capital, to a height six times its thickness at the base. Thus the Doric column, as used in buildings, began to exhibit the proportion, strength, and beauty of a man.”

“Just so afterwards, when they desired to construct a temple to Diana in a new style of beauty [Ionic], they translated these footprints into terms characteristic of the slenderness of women, and thus first made a column the thickness of which was only one eighth of its height, so that it might have a taller look. At the foot, they substituted the base in place of a shoe; in the capital they placed the volutes, hanging down at the right and left like curly ringlets, and ornamented its front with cymatia and wide festoons of fruit arranged in place of hair, while they brought the flutes down the whole shaft, falling like the folds in the robes worn by matrons. Thus in the invention of the two different kinds of columns, they borrowed manly beauty, naked and unadorned, for the one, and for the other the delicacy, adornment, and proportions characteristic of women….”

“The third order, called Corinthian, is an imitation of the slenderness of a maiden; for the outlines and limbs of maidens, being more slender on account of their tender years, admit of prettier effects in the way of adornment.”

The story of the Corinthian column goes on to tell of its inspiration which was from the growth of an Acanthus through the basket of a young Corinth maiden’s possessions atop her tomb.  The Athenian artist Callimachus passed it and took delight at its “novel style” and built columns after its form.  Once he determined the dimensions and proportions it was established to the rule for the Corinthian order, thus setting, literally, into stone the symmetry of beauty.

In another instance in Vitruvius’s work he details the facing of temples so as they can be experienced in a manner in line with many of the great esoteric and religious traditions.  He oriented them to be entered from the West to…

“…enable those who approach the altar with offerings or sacrifices to face the direction of the sunrise in facing the statue in the temple, and thus those who are undertaking vows look toward the quarter from which the sun comes forth, and likewise the statues themselves appear to be coming forth out of the east to look upon them as they pray and sacrifice.”
– Book IV, Ch. 5

This certainly does not predate the idea of Solomon’s temple orientation, but its questionable if perhaps Vitrivius was influenced in any way by this Judaic Old Testament writing, or operating on an older principal of Temple building.  In its simplest of thought, the older idea of knowledge, better thought of as wisdom, came from the East in the rising sun as it has symbolically represented the idea of a daily new beginning.  The word used for one who undertakes the degrees in Masonry, an initiate, comes from the Latin initiare which means “to begin anew”.  It would, no doubt, mesh with Renaissance architects as designers would see the parallels between the Old Testament Temple and the Classical temple styling to follow that same pattern.[1]

From an esoteric stand point, we can start to infer much of how this translates to our work as a Freemason, building that unseen house . . . but this also has a practical application that would of been at the very forefront of our early forbearers thought, as with Inigo Jones, as they planned and built the neoclassical temples of the late Renaissance.  Perhaps in some ways this is a vestige to our very being a Freemason, homage to the ancient practicing of our brothers in antiquity and a means to making being a Mason relevant to the teachings.

But as the degree then turns from the idea of architecture so must we to the aspect of our human senses, five in total, and their specific link to our ability to hear, see, and feel.

The degree says:

The five human senses are hearing, seeing, feeling, smelling, and tasting, the first three of which have ever been highly esteemed among Masons: hearing, to hear the word; seeing, to see the sign; feeling, to feel the grip, whereby one Mason may know another in the dark as well as in the light.

Again, as the orders of architecture are of a specific physicality, so too is this treatise on the five senses of the physicality of man.  It speaks much to our physically interpreting the activity around us.  In many ways it is reminiscent of the motto “Aude, Vide, Tace” which from the Latin translates to say “Know, Dare, Be Silent” which goes further to suggest of the same three tactile senses said to be of greatest importance that they have a parallel union:

  • Hearing – knowing = to learn and understand what is being taught
  • Seeing – daring = to think on and consider its purpose and meaning
  • Feeling – touching = to be silent rather than attempting to stumble until fuller knowledge is attained

The longer Roman proverb reads – “Audi, vide, tace, si tu vis vivere” which means to “Hear, see, be silent, if you wish to live (in peace)” which can give us a cryptic undertone or a view to see the disharmony of not being silent.

This middle chamber, middle position, examination gives us much to reflect on especially as it relates to our physicality in the role of a Fellow of the Craft, but to get a broader feel we need to look more widely at the implications of the period understanding to what these five senses represented.

Cornelius Agrippa, in his Three Books of Occult Philosophy, says of the five senses:

There be five senses in man, sight, hearing, smelling, tasting, and touching: five powers in the soul…, five fingers of the hand, five wandering planets in the heavens…. It is also called the number of the cross, yea eminent with the principal wounds of Christ[2], whereof he vouchsafed to keep the scars in his glorified body.  The heathen philosophers did dedicate it as sacred to Mercury, esteeming the virtue of it to be so much more excellent than the number four, by how much a living thing is more excellent than a thing without life….  Hence in time of grace the name of divine omnipotence is called upon with five letters…the ineffable name of God was [expressed] with five letters Ihesu…

The five wounds of Original Sin – First, death to the soul (heart). Second, darkness in the intellect, the right hand. Third, malice, an inclination to evil, the left hand. Fourth, sensuality – disordered desires, the left foot. And fifth, irritability and aggression, the right foot.

Ihesu is the middle ages usage of the name of Jesus, often written in Catholicism as simply IHS which has run through both Greek and Latin translations.  In Greek, it looks like Iota-eta-sigma-omicron-upsilon-sigma which becomes IESOUS in English.  The H comes from the variance of eta which is epsilon, and rendered as H giving us Agrippa’s meaning.

Further in the work of Agrippa, he attributes the number Five beyond the senses touching on the planets, the animal kingdom, and five things as made by God: essence, the same (similarity), another (difference), sense, and motion.  He called the number five the Pythagorean number of wedlock and justice (such we could interpret as Solomonic justice) because the number divides 10 in an even scale – Five represents the point of balance.

Clearly, we can see that Agrippa found some greater importance in the 5 senses, broadening their occult interpretations.  What we can take from this is that the 5 senses can be as limited as we choose to see them or as broad as we can start to  interpret them to be as most interpretations of the number 5 have similar or like meaning.  In either case, they have a wide variance by which to perceive them than simply in the five points of perfection.

In these two discussions of physicality, Architecture and sense, we find two seemingly unrelated elements that in the second degree are intricately interwoven and presented by instruction as integral to the metaphorical building of Solomon’s temple, or more specifically, our own temple of inner Being.  Like the great Greek and Roman pillars our senses are ever increasing importance giving our physicality a dimension to the degree.  Yet, by digging deeper, through some of the more esoteric connections, we can get a sense of the power of this simple number that divides 10, a Solominc number, the number of perfection.  So here, we have reached our second landing upon the staircase.  We have surmounted our second series of steps in the middle chamber and come to a point of rest.  Before us is the next ascent which will take us up a dizzying flight of seven steps.  Though the number may seem small, its connections are many and varied and further round out the active role of our manhood which is our place of being as a Fellow of the Craft.  Behind us rests the previous three and five steps – a monumental feat of climbing indeed, but before we can claim a victory over them, we must surmount the next seven and explore their potentiality in meaning.

Part 1 – Masonic Symbolism on the Winding Staircase  
Part 2 – Symbolism on the Winding Staircase – 5 steps upon the stair
Part 3 – Symbolism on the Winding Staircase – Seven the Magic Number



[1] Vitrivius does give further instruction on temples when not able to orient them in an eastward facing saying “…if the nature of the site is such as to forbid this, then the principle of determining the quarter should be changed, so that the widest possible view of the city may be had from the sanctuaries of the gods. Furthermore, temples that are to be built beside rivers, as in Egypt on both sides of the Nile, ought, as it seems, to face the river banks. Similarly, houses of the gods on the sides of public roads should be arranged so that the passers-by can have a view of them and pay their devotions face to face.” So, what is the guide is not fixed in necessity.
[2] What then are the five wounds of Original Sin? First, death to the soul through the loss of sanctifying grace, and consequently in due time to the body. Second, darkness in the intellect. Third, malice — an inclination to evil — in the will. Fourth, sensuality (disordered desires) in the concupiscible appetite. And fifth, irritability and aggression in the irascible appetite. their correlation follows:
Death to the soul – Death of the body (heart) – Death occurs when the soul, the life principle of the body, is separated from the body, as the heart is the seat of the soul.
Darkness in the intellect (and will) – the right hand, the hand of spirit – spiritual darkness, The will grasps at things by reaching out for them in desire.
Malice and evil – the left hand, the sinister hand where our will is malice, a proclivity to real evil, to rebellion
Sensuality of desire – the left foot, earth bound, it is the foot that sets off down the wrong path of pleasure and sin.
Irritability and aggression – the right foot of strength where man’s irascible appetite is our aggressiveness and proclivity to anger.
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Masonic Symbolism on the Winding Staircase

A Lecture on the Second Degree of Freemasonry

2nd degree fellowcraft tracing board art

On our way to the Sanctum Sanctorum, the newly made Mason undertakes a passage through what is commonly called the Middle Chamber.  The reference into the middle way is through the temple of Solomon, and the pathway to the Holy of Holies, the adytum in which the Holy Ark of the covenant resides at the the Kodesh Hakodashim, or the place in which deity dwells.  In that journey through the middle space, the Second degree brother is introduced to some of the more seemingly secular influenced aspects of the fraternity that begin to take on a double, or symbolic, meaning.  On their surface, the basic notions of these things are obvious, but not until you start to look at them closely, at their deeper meanings, that we start to see their relationships to other more esoteric ideas.  This is similar to religious traditions where withing one religious text there can be multiple layers of meaning, and multiple ways of interpretation which can lead to an allegorical, a moral, or a mystical meaning.

Indeed, as the degree is symbolically in King Solomon’s Temple, so to can it be seen as a symbolic metaphor to our own internal path, what Joseph Campbell calls the hero quest, and where you “leave the world that you you’re in and go into a depth or into a distance or up to a height.”[1]

Masonic symbols, tracing board, second degree, 2 degree

This is not to assume that the Masonic degrees have a similar relevancy to sacred or spiritual texts, though some could argue that their significance is almost as powerful to some observants.  It is a system of morality that strives to make good men better, which runs nearly in parallel with the many Volumes of the Sacred Law which seeks similar outcomes to achieve as it outlines and instructs its path to elevation. Whether its salvation or spiritual awakening the holy books seek to instruct its adherents to live better lives through their faith, the same that Freemasonry strives to through its practice – to make those good men better. In that process of making the good man a candidate for the degrees is made an entered apprentice, symbolically as he ascends Jacob’s ladder.  Once at the top, he is presented a series of three groups of symbols which are set before him to become a Second Degree mason so as they may observe and contemplate them in their path of progression, their hero’s quest, to the third degree.

The story of the degree, from Duncan’s Masonic Ritual and Monitor*, picks up after the passage between the twin pillars of the degree with the conductor delivering this instruction:

Brother, we will pursue our journey.  The next thing that attracts our attention is the winding stairs which lead to the Middle Chamber of King Solomon’s Temple, consisting of three, five, and seven steps.

The first three allude to the three principal stages of human life, namely, youth, manhood, and old age. In youth, as Entered Apprentices, we ought industriously to occupy our minds in the attainment of useful knowledge; in manhood, as Fellow Crafts, we should apply our knowledge to the discharge of our respective duties to God, our neighbors, and ourselves; so that in old age, as Master Masons, we may enjoy the happy reflections consequent on a well-spent life, and die in the hope of a glorious immortality.

They also allude to the three principal supports in Masonry, namely, Wisdom, Strength. and Beauty; for it is necessary that there should be wisdom to contrive, strength to support, and beauty to adorn all great and important undertakings.

They further allude to the three principal officers of the Lodge, viz.: Master, and Senior and Junior Wardens.

Let’s pause here and consider what some of the deeper meanings of these first steps infer.  The first segment is fairly straight forward; with narrative telling us that the three steps allude to the three stages of human life – Youth, Manhood, and Old Age.

Youth is defined as:
Young persons, collectively.
A young person; especially, a young man.
The quality or state of being young; youthfulness; juvenility.
The part of life that succeeds to childhood; the period of existence preceding maturity or age; the whole early part of life, from childhood, or, sometimes, from infancy, to manhood.

This is a pretty straight forward idea, especially as it says to us that “we ought industriously to occupy our minds in the attainment of useful knowledge”, but how does this apply to an older initiate, someone who is no longer in his youth.  Is it a wistful thought to what was achieved when younger and in still in school?  Taken on a deeper level, it could allude to the idea of the degree itself, the First degree being synonymous to mean that in the first, the candidate comes to the lodge as a youth (despite his chronological or physical age) with a clean slate of perception and a clean pallet of interpretation.  In a sense, he comes as blank slate to its teachings or to the ideas before him.  The degree being his introduction from exterior life to interior life which ushers him both into the fraternity and into the concept of the undertaking.  Pike, in the first degree lecture in Morals and Dogma, calls this the focusing of the aspirants “unregulated force” – the channel by which they constrain their previously raw, infantile state, into that of a focused and youthful aspirant no matter their age.

Next, the candidate enters into his Manhood, more literally the 2nd degree, of which the ceremony says of it “we should apply our knowledge to the discharge of our respective duties to God, our neighbors, and ourselves” which is a really active process to live by.  We, in essence, are to achieve much by way of our doing, essentially, the work of our daily life towards our deity in worship and practice, our community in which we live and reside, but more specifically as we apply it to ourselves in continuing to apply what we’ve learned in our youth to this state of existence.

The Free Dictionary defines Manhood as:
1. The state or time of being an adult male human.
2. The composite of qualities, such as courage, determination, and vigor, often thought to be appropriate to a man.
3. Adult males considered as a group; men.
4. The state of being human.

In the third entry, we can take much from it beyond it simply being our middle state of being.  It is in fact our ability to BE in the first place, our SELF in daily practice.  Interesting as this is, the second degree in which our further education takes place is not only about the practice of our youth but also our ability to learn and apply that education to our life.

Campbell says of the age progression that “As a child, you are brought up in a world of discipline, of obedience, and you are dependant on others.  All this has to be transcended when you come to maturity, so that you can live not in dependency but with self-responsible authority.”[2] This is, in essence, the heart of the three degree progression and the fundamental of the three steps – he becoming a man (or woman, respecting your discipline)!

Old age is a bit more of a troubling and complex issue.  So often in modern society we look at old age as a point of retirement where work and physical activity dramatically changes or diminishes.  In this description, the idea of old age holds true in that the degree says of old age that in it “we may enjoy the happy reflections consequent on a well-spent life, and die in the hope of a glorious immortality”

There are several interesting meanings we can take from this especially that it is in the degrees that these physical changes are metaphorically said to take place which can become a literal interpretation, and that once attained the Master Mason can live through them – literally to reflect on the life well spent.  What’s troubling here is that the major portion of the work of the lodge is spent in the third degree and a caution must be considered so as to not see the work of the Master Mason as just one of reflection and of casual rest lest no work, as described in Manhood, be completed.

Old Age is essentially defined as ones age nearing or passing the average life span of human beings, and thus at the end of the human life cycle.  In the U.S. this is considered to be 78 years old giving a distinct impression as to when one should then become a True Master.  It really is at a twilight of life period, one of great age and maturity where little change and much reflection takes place.  This gives us an interesting perspective on the meaning as it implies a near end of physical life period of time which squares with the degrees lesson as the period of reflection of a life well spent.  We become the Master of our all, ready to pass our knowledge on to the next generation.

With this vantage, we can take pause to deeply consider that our daily working of the degrees, intrinsically, could (or should) be conducted in the 2nd state, our manhood in which we conversely learn and grow.

Symbolism of the Second Degree

Cirlot, in his Dictionary of Symbols, makes an interesting point in that the idea of progression in the stages of age is not unique to Masonry.  Besides the stages themselves, the number three (3) is a representation of synthesis and unites the “solution of conflict posed by dualism.” In other words, the third object brings about balance for the first two opposing states.  Think of the balance of three dots, one stacked above two.

From this point, the degree breaks off to correlate these first steps with the three principal pillars of the lodge as Wisdom, Strength and Beauty which also has an interesting Kabalistic point of reference in the three pillars that make up the structure of the tree of life.  Keep in mind, the orientation assumes the viewer reverse the structure to mirror ones own standing rather than simply reflect the observer.

Wisdom, the left hand pillar of mercy, is an active pillar and representative of alchemical fire, which is the principal of spirituality, often called the pillar of Jachin.  It is a masculine pillar, and relates to our mental energy, our loving kindness, and our creative inspiration as we traverse it up the Kabbalaistic tree through the Sephirot.

Strength is the right hand pillar and takes the form of severity, shaped into the alchemical symbol of water.  It can represent darkness, but it is a passive symbol that is feminine in nature and called the pillar of Boaz.  Upon it we find the points of our thoughts and ideas, our feelings and emotions, and the physicality of our physical experience, our sensations, each an aspect of its Cabalistic progression.

"mercurial transformation"

Beauty, then, takes on the role of synthesis of the two, the pillar of mildness; it is upon this pillar that the novitiate is transformed through his progressive states as he progresses.  The central pillar of Beauty is representative of Jehovah, the Tetragrammaton which represents deity itself upon which our crown of being resides balanced through feeling and emotion from our foundation of justice and mercy, all of which springs from our link to the everyday world.

These aspects of the Kabbalah are not specific attributes of the study in the blue lodge, rather elements of deeper esoteric study, found more specifically in the degrees of the Scottish Rite.  Because of the pillars, and their deeper symbolic meaning, it does, however, necessitate looking at them deeper to see the relationship between them as the blue lodge degrees seem to have parallels in the study of the Kabbalah – a happy accident at some time past or with purpose to link the ideas together.  Wisdom, Strength, and Beauty are specific aspects of the lower three degrees and emphasized here in the first three steps into the middle chamber, necessitating their deeper esoteric study to fully grasp their broader importance.

As the degree instructs – Wisdom is to contrive, Strength is to support, and Beauty is to adorn all great and important undertakings – which are the fundamentals of the three pillars in the Kabbalaistic study.

Conversely, as the degree states, these three pillars “allude to the three principal officers of the Lodge, viz.: Master, and Senior and Junior Wardens.” and can be interpreted as such in both a micro (in lodge) fashion and in a broader macro tradition of Masonry itself – in this Kabbalaistic formulation.  When the alchemical aspects of wisdom and strength are combined we can see the 6 pointed star appears, the symbol of transformation, often depicted in the conjoining of the square and compass in which Masons are instructed to square their actions and circumscribe their passions, which also corresponds to the link between the Saints Johns – the Baptist as the principal of alchemical water, and the Evangelist as the symbol of alchemical fire, both of whom have much deeper esoteric connections in Masonry. Also, the figures of the lodge leadership have a deeper connection as you begin to look at their alchemical connections too, when you look at their relationship to the Sun and moon, and the aspirant candidate as the solution of conflict, as Cirlot described, and as defined in the first degree – the three sphere aspect to balance the two of conflict.

From these short first few tentative steps, we can see that there is a wealth of Masonic symbols at hand, but we are only one third into our progression.  Our next step takes us deeper into the middle chamber to its central position where we encounter an interesting juxtaposition of the physical world to our very human aspect of being through our senses.

For now, reflect a time on these first three steps and consider what comes next upon the path.

Read the series:
Part 1 – Masonic Symbolism on the Winding Staircase 
Part 2 – Symbolism on the Winding Staircase – 5 steps upon the stair
Part 3 – Symbolism on the Winding Staircase – Seven the Magic Number

[1] Campbell, Joseph, “The Power of Myth”, p. 129
[2]ibid* Duncan’s Ritual Monitor is the most universal aspect of the degrees and widely available in public circulation so as to get a glimpse of the Masonic degrees. Its publication, originating in 1866 and has been has been republished many times since. It includes the three blue lodge degrees of the Ancient York Rite, and four additional advanced degrees of the York Rite.

Building Athens

Building Athens

Building Hiram and Building Boaz now have a new sibling, Building Athens.

Our good friend and Brother John Nagy has been diligently at the trestleboard and is ready to unveil is third installment in the Building Hiram series with his new book Building Athens.

The book, Building Athens, focuses on Wisdom, Insight and the Work of the Second Degree, specifically:

  • The Ancient Source of the Masonic EA and FC training
  • The Significance of “The Pass” in all Masonic Work
  • The Seven Liberal Arts and Sciences and how they relate to “The Pass”
  • What Raises a Mason’s Abilities to do further Work.

In the new book he explores why the study of the Seven Liberal Arts and Sciences are so critical for Masons to study.

From the books website:

In “Building Athens,” volume three of the “Uncommon Catechism for Uncommon Masonic Education” series, Dr. Nagy shares 12 intriguing and enlightening Masonic Catechisms that outline in depth the very purpose of the Fellow Craft education. Well established nearly 2500 years ago, the training serving this purpose Raises Masons with a specific end in mind.

Building Athens reveals:

  • The author of and inspiration for Fellow Craft Training.
  • The purpose Fellow Craft training was intended to accomplish.
  • The single most important word that denotes the difference between Fellow Crafts and Master Masons.
  • A widow’s son whose life and death redefined what it means to be heroic.
  • What should be known about the Seven Liberal Arts and Sciences by every Mason.
  • What truly Raises a Fellow Craft toward Mastery.

Dr. Nagy provides you with yet one more interesting and thought-provoking guide to improve and strengthen your Masonic awareness and clarity. He shares key information and insights that will help you better understand how facets of the second Degree fit together to help you in your Building efforts.

Something that immediately caught my eye was the title and how it correlates to the work.  Building Athens shares 12 intriguing and enlightening Masonic Catechisms which seems to coincide with the founding of the city of Athens and the uniting of the 12 cities under the name Athenae (Athens), where the rich, the farmer, and the artisan all shared equal rights.

You can pre-order the book now, or pick it up when it hits June 1st from the Building Athens site!