Symbols of the Fellowcraft
On the previous page, we asserted that there were two great ideas embodied in the Fellowcraft degree. We now turn our attention to these ideas.
One of these is the idea of adulthood. Whereas the Apprentice represents youth standing at the portals of life, his eyes on the rising sun, the Fellowcraft is a man in the prime of life experienced, strong, resourceful, able to bear the heat and burden of the day.
When he comes to experience adulthood, a man discovers that the mere fact that he is forty or fifty year of age has little to do with it.
Adulthood is a condition, a state of life, a situation charged with a set of duties.
What does the Second degree have to say to the Fellowcraft, whether in Masonry or in the world at large?
The answer to that brings us to our second idea: that the Fellowcraft may so equip himself that he will prove adequate to the tasks which will be laid upon him.
The degree gives us at least three answers. The first is that the Fellowcraft must gain experience from contact with the realities of existence.
You will recall what was said about the five senses. Needless to say, that portion of the Winding Stair or Staircase Lecture was not intended to be a disquisition on either physiology or psychology.
It is symbolism, and it represents what a man learns through seeing, touching, tasting, hearing, and smelling.
In short, experience from year to year until at last through the very contacts of his senses with objects which make up the world he has come to understand that world, how to deal with it, how to master it at that point where he stands.
The second answer is education. After all, an individual's possible experience is extremely limited, circumscribed by the length of his Cable Tow.
To our own store of hard won experience we must add the experience of others, supplementing our experience by the information of countless men brought to us by the knowledge taught us by our teachers.
Consider the Apprentice in the days when Masons were builders of great and costly structures.
He was a mere boy, entirely ignorant of the secrets and arts of the builders; and yet, after seven years or so, he was able to produce his master's piece and to take his rightful place at any task to which the Worshipful Master might appoint him.
All this was accomplished by teaching by the Master Masons about him guiding his clumsy hands and passing on to him in many, many lessons what they had been years in acquiring.
Such is education. It is symbolized in the Second Degree by the Liberal Arts and Sciences.
Perhaps you were somewhat nonplussed to hear what was said about Grammar, Rhetoric, Logic, Arithmetic, Geometry, Music, and Astronomy. Perhaps you wondered what such schoolroom topics had to do with Masonry.
Now you should understand. The explanations of these subjects were not meant to be academic lectures out of a college course at all.
Like so much also in the Degree it was symbolism, and symbolism signifies all that is meant by education.
A Fellowcraft of life, then must be equipped with experiences and knowledge. Is there anything more?
Yes there is our third answer is wisdom.
A man may see, hear, touch and handle things so often and so much that he has a rich experience, yet not have knowledge; and a man may have such knowledge, may have mastered some task or job or trade.
Yet he may be unhappy and a failure as a human being because he cannot adjust himself to the complex system of realities, experience and facts which make up life as a whole.
He may lack wisdom competency to deal with each situation that arises it matters not what it might be.
The Middle Chamber, which is so conspicuous an element in the Second Degree, doubtless has many meanings. But it certainly has this: that it is a symbol of the wisdom of which we have just been speaking.
Through the experiences of the Five senses, up through the knowledge gained of the Liberal Arts and Sciences, the candidate is called to advance, as on a winding staircase.
That balanced wisdom of life in which the senses, emotion, intellect, character, work, deeds, habits, and soul of a man are knit together in unity, until at least he sees that "hieroglyphic light which none that craftsmen ever saw."
In the Fellowcraft Degree, you also discoverd that a number of emblems and symbols of the First Degree reappeared.
Among the allegories peculiar to the Fellowcraft Degree, the most striking and important one is the rite in which you, as a candidate, acted the part of a man approaching King Solomon's Temple.
You came into its outer precincts, climbed a winding staircase, passed between the Two Pillars, and at last entered its Middle Chamber.
Standing in it, you acted the part of a Fellowcraft workman who received his wages of corn, wine, and oil; and during certain stages of this allegorical journey, you listened to various parts of a discourse which Masonry calls the Middle Chamber lecture.
This entire allegory is a symbolic picture of the true and inner meaning of initiation.
The Temple is the life into which a man is initiated. That which lay outside the walls of the Temple, from which you as a candidate were supposed to come, represents what in Masonry is called the profane world not profane in the usual sense of the word as being blasphemous, but profane in the technical sense; the word means "shut away from the altar,' and it thereby signifies all who are not initiated.
When you are instructed not to reveal the secrets to a profane, it means not to reveal them to one who is not a Mason.
The stairs you climbed represented the steps by which the life of initiation is approached qualification, petition, election, and the Three Degrees.
The Pillars represent birth; when you passed between them it signified that you were no longer a profane but had now entered the circle of initiates.
The Middle Chamber also represents
initiation completed; once arrived there, the candidate received the rewards for the
ordeals and arduous labors he has endured on the way; he has arrived at his goal.
Such is the meaning of your allegorical entrance into Solomon's Temple as a candidate in the Fellowcraft Degree.
You can see at once that all the other symbols and allegories in the Degree are to be interpreted in the light of that meaning; you can also see that in the light of that meaning, the Degree itself and as a whole becomes a living power by which to shape and build our lives.
The above is one interpretation of the symbols and allegories of this degree.
As you progress and continue to study Masonry, you may find other interpretations equally as meaningful as these advanced here.