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MEANING OF THE TERM "FELLOWCRAFT"
"Fellow Craft" is one of the large number of terms which have a technical meaning peculiar to Freemasonry and are seldom found elsewhere. In Operative Masonry a "Craft" was an organization of skilled workmen in some trade or calling, a "fellow" meant one who held membership in such a craft, obligated to the same duties and allowed the same privileges.
In Freemasonry it possesses two separate meanings, one of which we may call the Operative meaning, and the other the Speculative.
In its Operative period Freemasons were skilled workmen engaged as architects and builders; like other skilled workmen, they had an organized craft of their own, the general form of which was called a " -Guild." This guild had officers, laws, rules, regulations, and customs of its own, rigorously binding on all members.
It divided its membership into two grades, the lower of which composed of apprenticeship, was explained to you in our first meeting.
You have already learned the Operative meaning of Fellow Craft; now that the Craft is no longer Operative the term possesses a very different meaning, yet it is still used in its original sense in certain parts of the Ritual, and, of course, it is frequently met with in the histories of the Fraternity.
Operative Freemasonry began to decline at about the time of the Reformation, when Lodges became few in number and small in membership. A few of these in England began to admit into membership men with no intention of practicing Operative Masonry, but who were attracted by the Craft's antiquity, and for social philosophical reasons. These were called Speculative Masons. At the beginning of the eighteenth century these Speculatives so increased in numbers that they gained control, and during the first quarter of that century completely transformed the Craft into the Speculative Fraternity we now have.
Although they adhered as closely as possible to the old customs, they made radical changes to fit the Society for its new purposes. One of the most important of these was to abandon the old rule of dividing the members into two grades, or degrees, and to adopt the new rule of dividing them into three. The second was called the Fellow Craft’s Degree, the third the Master Mason's Degree.
The term Fellow Craft is now used as the name of one who has received the Second Degree. You are a Fellow Craft; you have passed through the ceremonies, assumed the obligations of the Fellow Craft's Degree and are registered as a Fellow Craft in the books of the Lodge. You can sit in either a Lodge of Apprentices or of Fellow Crafts, but not of Master Masons. Your duties are to do and to be all that a Fellow Craft's Lodge requires.
Freemasonry is too extensive to be exemplified in a ritual or to be presented through initiation in one evening. One Degree follows another and the members of each stand on a different level of rights and duties; but this does not mean that the Masonry presented in either the First or Second Degree, so far as its nature and teachings are concerned, is less important, or less binding, than that presented in the Third Degree. All that is taught in the First and Second Degrees belongs as vitally and permanently to Freemasonry as that which is taught in the Third; there is a necessary subordination in the grades of membership but there is no subordination of the Masonry presented in each grade.
Do not, therefore, be tempted to look upon the Fellow Craft's Degree as a mere stepping-stone to the Third. Freemasonry gave to you one part of itself in the First, another portion in the Second, and in the Third it will give you yet another, but it is always Freemasonry throughout. Therefore, we urge on you the same studious attention while you are a Fellow Craft that you doubtless expect to give when you are a Master Mason.
In asking you to learn well the duties, privileges, and limitations of an Entered Apprentice, we also urge you to conceive of apprenticeship in the larger sense. It is not particularly difficult for a worthy candidate to become a member in name only, but we want your ambition to extend far beyond that perfunctory stage. We believe that you wish to become a Mason in reality and that no idle desire for the honor of bearing the name has been your motive for seeking our fellowship. If this be true, we urgently advise you not to be content with the letter and outward form in this your beginning period, but to apply yourself with freedom, fervency and zeal to the sincere and thorough mastering of our Royal Art.
You are now a Fellow Craft. Our purpose is to try to explain some of the meanings of the Degree; a part only, as it would require many evenings to explain it in full.
Many great ideas are embodied therein, which, if understood, will lead to comprehension of others.
One of these is the idea of adulthood.
The Entered Apprentice represents youth standing at the portals of life, his pathway lighted by the rays of the rising sun. The Master Mason represents the man of years, already on the farther slope of the hill with the setting sun in his eyes. The Fellow Craft is a man in the prime of life-experienced, strong, resourceful, able to bear the heat and burden of the day.
Only in its narrowest sense can adulthood be described in terms of years. If and when he achieves it, a man discovers that the mere fact that he is forty or fifty years of age has little to do with it. Adulthood is rather a quality of mind and heart.
The man in his middle years carries the responsibilities. It is he upon whom a family depends for support; he is the Atlas on whose shoulders rest the burdens of business; by his skill and experience the arts are sustained; to his keeping are entrusted the destinies of the State. It is said that in the building of his Temple, King Solomon employed eighty thousand Fellow Crafts, who labored in the mountains and the quarries. The description is suggestive, for it is by men in the Fellow Craft period of life that the work is done, in the mountains and quarries of human experience.
What does the Second Degree say to the Fellow Craft, whether in Masonry or in the world at large? The Answer brings us to the second great idea that the Fellow Craft is so to equip himself that he will prove adequate to the tasks which will be laid upon him.
What is that equipment? The Degree gives us at least three answers.
The first is that the Fellow Craft must gain direct 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 Middle Chamber Lecture was not intended as a dissertation on either physiology or psychology; it is symbolism, and represents what a man learns through seeing, touching, tasting, hearing and smelling-in short, immediate experience; and a man garners such experience only with the passage of time.
The second answer is education. The possibilities of an individual's experience are limited. Could we learn of life only that with which we are brought in contact by our senses, we would be poorly equipped to deal with its complexities and responsibilities. To our store of hard-won experience we add the experience of others, supplementing ours by the information of countless men which is brought to us through many channels; our own knowledge must be made more nearly complete by the accumulated knowledge of the race.
We have a picture of this in Freemasonry: . In the days when Masons were builders of great and costly structures, the apprentice was a mere boy, ten to fifteen years of age, scarcely knowing one tool from another, ignorant of the secrets and art of the builders. Yet, if worthy and skillful, after seven years he was able to produce his Master's Piece and perform any task to which the Master might appoint him. How was all this accomplished? Only by the instruction, guidance and inspiration the Master was able to give him as a result of long years of experience and development.
Such is education, symbolized in the Second Degree by the Liberal Arts and Sciences. No doubt you were surprised to hear what was said about grammar, rhetoric, logic, arithmetic, geometry, music and astronomy, and wondered what such schoolroom topics had to do with Masonry. You understand now! The explanation of these subjects was not intended as an academic lecture. Like so much else in the Degree, they are symbolism signifying all that is meant by education.
The third answer is wisdom.
Experience gives us awareness of the world at points of immediate contact; knowledge gives us competence for special tasks in the activities of life. But a man's life is not confined to his immediate experience; nor is he day and night engaged in the same task; life is richer than that! Wisdom is that quality of judgment by which we are able to adapt our experience and knowledge to a practical solution of our social relations to others; wisdom to make our work conform to the plan of the Great Architect.
The Middle Chamber, which is so conspicuous in the Second Degree, is a symbol of wisdom. Through the Five Senses (Experience), and through knowledge of the Liberal
Arts and Sciences (Education), the candidate is called to advance, as on Winding Stairs, to that maturity of life in which the senses, emotions, intellect, character, work, deeds, habits and soul of a man are knit together in unity, balanced, poised, adequate: Wisdom.
Of the allegories peculiar to this Degree the most striking and important is that in which you acted the part of a man approaching King Solomon's Temple; you came into its outer precincts; passed between the Two Pillars, climbed a winding stairs and at last entered the Middle Chamber where our ancient brethren received their wages of Corn, Wine, and Oil. During certain stages of this allegorical journey you listened to various parts of a discourse which Masonry calls the Middle Chamber Lecture.
We gradually achieve a greater appreciation of the great values of life; religion, which is man's quest for God; brotherhood, which is a life of fellowship grounded in good will; art, by which we enjoy the beautiful; citizenship, by which we enjoy the good of communal life; science, by which we learn the nature of the world we live in; literature, by which we enter into communion with the life of all mankind. A good life is one in which all such things are appreciated and enjoyed.
All this is commonplace, in the sense that it conforms to the experience of wise men everywhere. It is not commonplace in the sense that all men understand it or follow it. For many men do not understand it, or if they do, have not the will to follow it. Such men, when young, are so impatient, or indolent, or conceited, that they refuse to submit to a long and painful apprenticeship, and reach adult life with all its tasks and responsibilities, without training and without knowledge, blindly trusting to their luck.
This belief that the good things of life come by chance to the fortunate, is a fatal blunder. The satisfying values of life, spiritual, moral, intellectual, or physical, cannot be won like a lottery prize; they cannot come at all except through patient, intelligent and sustained effort.
Your instructions relative to the wages of a Fellow Craft, given in the place representing the Middle Chamber of King Solomon's Temple, are by no means completed at this point, for, in common with all other values of Freemasonry, they are a continuing experience. The “wages" are the intangible but no less real compensation for a faithful and intelligent use of the Working Tools, fidelity to your obligations, and unflagging interest in and study of the structure purpose, and possibilities of the Fraternity. Such wages may be defined in terms of a deeper understanding of Brotherhood, a clearer conception of ethical living, a broader toleration, a sharper impatience with the mediocre and unworthy, and a more resolute will to think justly, independently, and honestly.
You recall the prominence which was given the letter G. It is doubtful if this symbol in its present form was of any Masonic significance prior to the 18th century, but since that time it has come to have a double interpretation: first, as being the first letter of our name for the Deity in whose existence all Masons have professed belief, the continued expression of which is symbolized by the presence of the Volume of the Sacred Law upon our altar; second, as being the initial of Geometry, regarded as the basic science of Operative Masonry, now symbolizing to Speculative Masons the unchanging natural laws which govern the whole material universe. Together they symbolize that attribute of God revealed to us through Geometry: God as the great intelligence of the universe. This is consistent, as the entire Degree makes its appeal to the intellect.
Such are some of the meanings of your allegorical entrance into Solomon's Temple as a candidate in the Second Degree. Other symbols and allegories in the Degree may be interpreted in the light of these definitions when the Degree as a whole becomes a living influence upon our lives, not only in the Lodge room but in the world of human experience of which the Lodge room is a symbol.
The first and foremost duty of a Fellowcraft is to live according to the obligations of the Degree; to be obedient to the officers of the Lodge and to the rules, regulations, and laws of the Fraternity. Also he must learn well the work in order to pass his test for proficiency. If he be earnest and sincere he will study the meaning of the Degree as a preparation for his Masonic life in the future.
His limitations are equally plain. He may sit in Lodge only when open on the Fellow Craft or Entered Apprentice Degree. He is not entitled to vote, to hold office, to have a voice in the administration of the Lodge, nor would he be entitled to relief, to join in public Masonic processions, or to Masonic burial.
He has a right to instruction whereby he may prove himself proficient in open Lodge; and he can make himself known to other Fellow Crafts by means of his modes of recognition.
A Mason remains a Fellow Craft, in a real sense, as long as he lives. Taking the First Degree is like drawing a circle; the Second Degree is a circle drawn around the first; the Third Degree is a still larger circle drawn around the other two, and containing both. A portion of Freemasonry is contained within the first; another part is in the second, still a third in the last. Being a Master Mason includes being also an Entered Apprentice and a Fellow Craft. The Entered Apprentice's and Fellow Craft's Degrees are not like stages left behind in a journey to be abandoned or forgotten; rather are they preserved and incorporated in the Master Mason's Degree and form the foundation on which it rests.
The ideas, the ideals, and the teachings of the Second Degree as permanently belong to Freemasonry as the Third; the moral obligations continue always to be binding. A Master Mason is as much the Brother of Entered Apprentices and Fellow Crafts as of Master Masons.
Freemasonry has many aspects. The First Degree makes its appeal to the conscience, and we are taught how necessary is obedience, apprenticeship and industry if we would become good men and true. The Second Degree exalts the intellectual, paying its tribute alike to knowledge and wisdom. In the Third Degree, as you will learn in due time, is the Masonry of the soul. Running through all three degrees is the Masonry of fellowship, good will, kindness, loyalty, tolerance, brotherly love; we also learn the Masonry of benevolence, expressed in relief and charity; again we have Masonry as an institution, organized under laws and managed by responsible officers; and yet again we have a Masonry that holds above and before us those great ideals of truth, justice, courage and goodness, to which we can always aspire.
The Operative builders gave the world among other masterpieces, the great Gothic cathedrals of Europe. Their art was one of the highest and the most difficult practiced in their period. The Masons were Masters of mathematics, which they called Geometry, of engineering, of the principles of design, of carving, of stained glass, and of mosaic. Through all the changes of the Craft in after years, through its transformation more than two hundred years ago into a Speculative Fraternity, their great intellectual tradition has remained and stands today embodied in the Second Degree, which teaches Masons to love the Liberal Arts and Sciences, and apply them in daily living.
This Masonry of the mind develops one of the real meanings of the Second Degree; it is what truly signified by our term "Fellowcraft". Whenever you prove yourself a friend of enlightenment, whenever you become an enemy of bigotry or intolerance, and a champion of the mind's right to be free, to do its work without check or hindrance, when you support schools and colleges, and labor to translate into action the command "let there be light", you live the teachings of the Fellowcraft Degree.
You will recall that during the conferral of the Fellowcraft Degree, a portion of the Holy Scriptures was read to you. The reading was either from the Book of Amos, Chapter 7, verses 7 and 8 or may have been from the Book of Exodus, Chapter 20, verses 2 -7.
The Fellowcraft Degree is one in which a great moral lesson is taught by the Plumb Line. In all languages and in the experience of all builders the use of the plumb line in fundamental. Builders depend upon the plumb line to erect perpendiculars; buildings straight and true and upright. From the use of the plumb line, we get such words as rectitude, just, true, rightness, straightness, integrity, honesty, and many others.
"Thus he shewed me;
(Book of Amos, Chapter 7, verses 7 and 8)
The background of this Scripture from Amos is interesting. Amos was an ordinary citizen of Judea who was moved of God to go to the Northern Kingdom and point out the sins that were bringing that nation to ruin.
He prophesied sometime between 783 and 745 B.C. Israel was prosperous, too prosperous, for most of the people had forgotten God and were living in a time when honor and justice were forgotten virtues. There were the very rich and the very poor and a condition wherein judges could be bought as bread or oil.
The nation was crooked inside and out. God was disgusted with their evils and sins. Amos could see no hope for Israel and felt that the only remedy God had was to destroy them utterly. So this message was one of gloom and ruin.
If you read further, you will find what God meant when He said that He would not "pass by them any more." He meant that He would not visit them, He would ignore them, they would be destroyed. "And the high places of Isaac shall be desolate, and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste; and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword."
The plumb-line is an instrument of testing. God had tested the morals of Israel and found them crooked. God had tested the loyalty of Israel and found it covered with avarice, greed, and sin. This is a lesson of judgment. We are continually being judged by God's plumb-line......we as individuals, as a nation, as a world, even as Masons.
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Last modified: March 22, 2014