When the ‘Operative Mason’ came to the end of his Apprenticeship, and his record was good and had proved his proficiency under test, he was formally released from his bond and became known as ‘A Fellow of the Craft’. The term that Freemasons, as ‘Speculative Masons’ use of ‘Fellowcraft’ is actually a shortening of the expression. During the ceremony the Fellowcraft assumes its Obligations and is subsequently registered in the records of the Lodge as such, and can now sit in either a Lodge of Entered Apprentices or a Fellowcraft Lodge.
Because the Fellowcraft lies between the Entered Apprentice and the Master Mason Degree, he must not fall into the error of considering it a halfway station, a mere transition from one to the other.
On the contrary, it has the same completeness, the same importance and definite purpose as each of the others. Unless the Fellowcraft clearly understand its teachings, he will not obtain a full understand of the secrets and mysteries of the Craft.
The Entered Apprentice represents youth standing at the portals of life, his eyes fixed on the rising sun. The Master Mason is a man of years, already on the further slope of the hill with the setting sun in his eyes. But the Fellowcraft is a man in the prime of his life – experienced, strong and resourceful, able to bear the heat and burden of the day. The Degree is the opportunity for the Fellowcraft to equip himself so that he may prove to be adequate for the tasks of adulthood, which life will lie before him.
The ceremony gives him at least three answers. The first is that the Fellowcraft must gain experience from contact with the realities of life that surrounds his existence.
A man gains such experience only with the passage of time. Each day he comes into contact with facts, year after year, until at last through his senses of seeing, hearing and touching he comes to understand the world around him, and how to deal with it.
The second answer is education. This is symbolised in the Second Degree by the liberal arts and sciences. Perhaps during the ceremony the Fellowcraft is surprised to hear what is said about grammar, rhetoric, logic, arithmetic, geometry, music and astronomy and wonders what such schoolroom topics have to do with Freemasonry.
The explanation of these subjects, like so much in our Order, is that they are actually symbols signifying all that is meant by the word ‘education’. It is our training by others in skill and knowledge to do or to understand the world about us.
The third answer is wisdom. Experience gives us awareness of the world at points of immediate contact; knowledge gives us competency for tasks in the arts, professions and all callings and vocations. However, a man’s life is not confined to his own immediate experiences, which is so conspicuous in passing through the Second Degree. Throughout, the ceremony is a symbol of wisdom.
By the experience of his various senses, combined with the knowledge gained of the liberal arts and sciences, the candidate is called to advance up the winding staircase to a position that is the balanced wisdom of life in which the senses, emotions, intellect, character, habits and soul of a man knit together in a balanced unity.
Such are the secrets and mysteries of the Degree of a Fellowcraft that a man discovers that he need not shirk from his toil, nor faint from the heat and burden of the day, because he has learned that his competency as a human being will be equal to the demands made upon him.
The striking and important allegories peculiar to this Degree lead the Fellowcraft to act the part of a man approaching King Solomon’s Temple. He is led into the outer precincts, passing between the two pillars. He climbs the winding staircase and at last enters the Middle Chamber, the place where our ancient brethren received their wages. It is here that the Fellowcraft’s attention is drawn to making the liberal arts and sciences his future study.
It will soon become clear to the Fellowcraft that the underlying lesson to be learnt is the development of maturity and manhood through the acquisition of knowledge and constructive work.
This is why the scientific facts and the theories of art that are so beautifully contained in the explanation of the Second Tracing Board, but more importantly, in the various sections of the Second (or Middle Chamber) Lecture that should become the vital source of his future study.
Ignorance is one of the greatest evils to mankind, enlightenment is one of the greatest goods. It is this reverence for knowledge and its moral teachings and usefulness which are the real secrets and mysteries of the Second Degree. The ritual stresses the need for studying and for learning throughout the period of manhood. It illuminates the idea that you must search for knowledge about the liberalising ideas of morality and brotherly love.
A brother thus far in his journey through the Craft of ‘Speculative Freemasonry’ has reached the stage when, if he does pursue his studies, he can truly become a Master engaged in building “a house not made by earthly hands”.
He will then have learnt and understood the meaning of achieving a universal tolerance and understanding of the world around him. Such is the meaning of the symbolic entrance into King Solomon’s Temple as a candidate for the
Second Degree.As knowledge and understanding grows of this remarkable Degree, the whole becomes a living power by which to shape and build our lives, not only in the Lodge room, but also into the world of human experience of which the Lodge room itself is a symbol.
The first duty of a Fellowcraft is to live according to the Obligations of the Degree, to be obedient to the Master, his Wardens and the officers of the Lodge, and to learn to observe the rules, regulations and laws of the Fraternity.
The ideals and the teachings of the Second Degree, as with the other degrees of the Craft, continue always to be binding. If a Mason is to understand and to possess Freemasonry in its entirety it is necessary for him to have a full grasp of Fellowcraft Masonry, and to begin in earnest to make a daily advancement in Masonic knowledge.
Running through all degrees in Freemasonry are the privileges of fellowship, goodwill, kindness, brotherly love, benevolence and charity that we all try continuously to cultivate and develop in our own character. The method of teaching in Freemasonry is unlike that of schools, colleges and universities. Instead of employing teaching staff and textbooks, our lessons take the form of ritual, expounding its teaching in words and actions, almost like a play.
Our stories are full of symbolism and what we call allegories – these are stories or fables in which the characters are in fact symbolic. This is not as easy to follow as ‘the school room method’, but it has a unique advantage.
It makes a Brother study and learn for himself, forcing him to search out the truth, even compelling him to take the initiative, as a grown man should, so that the very act of learning becomes of educational value.
The purpose of secrecy is not to keep the candidate in the dark, but to stimulate him to seek the light. The symbols and emblems of our Order do not conceal the teachings – they reveal them – but in such a manner that a man finds truth for himself. It is only when this happens to the individual that such findings will remain with him as a cherished permanent possession.
A Fellowcraft should ask his Proposer, Seconder or Lodge Mentor to provide him with a copy of the Second Degree ritual, including the Tracing Board – he should not have to wait until after taking the Third Degree.
The Fellowcraft may find that the former explains very little, and the later only adds to his confusion – take it slowly, try to understand, and do not be afraid to ask questions. It will not be until the Fellowcraft has extended his personal research to read and understand the Second Degree Lecture – often called the Middle Chamber Lecture (it runs to 40 pages) that he will be able to fully comprehend the secrets and mysteries of the Second Degree.
From what appears to be at first view but a ‘stepping stone’ from the First to the Third Degree, will surely become a spectacular learning experience.
Ray Hollins is the author of A Daily Advancement in Masonic Knowledge: 100 short talks on the Craft.
For further information visit www.masonicshortalks.com