Fellowcraft Degree

of Freemasonry

AN INTRODUCTION

 You are now a Fellowcraft Mason.

This means that you passed through its ceremonies, assumed its obligations, are registered as such in the books of the Lodge, and can sit in either a Lodge of Entered Apprentices or of Fellowcrafts, but not in a Lodge of Master Masons.

Doubtless you recognized in the Fellowcraft Degree a call for learning, an urge to study. Truly, here is a great Degree -- one to muse upon and to study; one to see many, many times and still not come to the end of its stirring teachings.

There are two great ideas embodied in the Fellowcraft Degree. They are not the only two ideas in it, to be sure; but if you understand these, they will lead you into an understanding of the others.  But before we turn to these two main ideas, exactly what is a Fellowcraft?

Fellowcraft is one of a large number of terms which have a technical meaning peculiar to Freemasonry and is seldom or never found elsewhere.  In the dictionary sense it is not difficult to define. A "craft" was an organization of the skilled workmen in some trade or calling, for example, masons, carpenters, painters, sculptors, barbers, etc.  A "fellow" meant one who held full membership in such a craft, was obligated to the same duties, and allowed the same privileges.  Since the skilled crafts are no longer organized as they once were, the term is no longer in use with its original sense.  It is more difficult to give it the larger meaning as it is found in Freemasonry, but we may be assisted to that end by noting that with us it possesses two quite separate and distinct meanings, on of which we may call the Operative meaning, the other the Speculative.

 We can first consider the OPERATIVE meaning.

In its operative period, Freemasons were skilled workmen engaged in some branch of the building trade, or art of architecture; as such, like all other skilled workmen, they had an organized craft of their own.  The general form in which this craft was organized was called a "guild." A Lodge was a local, and usually temporary organization within the guild.  This guild had officers, laws, rules, regulations, and customs of its own, rigorously binding on all members equally.  It divided its membership into two grades, the lower of which was composed of apprentices. The Operative Freemasons recruited their membership from qualified lads of twelve to fifteen years of age.  When such a boy proved acceptable to the members, he was required to swear to be obedient, upon which he was bound over to some Master Mason; after a time, if he proved worthy, his name was formally entered in the books of the Lodge, thereby giving him his title of Entered Apprentice.  For about seven years this boy lived with his master, gave his master implicit obedience in all things, and toiled much but received no pay except his board, lodging, and clothing.

In the Lodge life, he held a place equally subordinate because he could not attend a Lodge of Master Masons, had no voice or vote, and could not hold office.  All this means that during his long apprenticeship, he was really a bond servant with many duties, few rights, and very little freedom.  At the end of his apprenticeship, he was once more examined in Lodge. If his record was good, if he could prove his proficiency under test and the members voted in his favor, he was released from his bonds and made a full member of the Craft, with the same duties, rights, and privileges as all others.  In the sense that he had thus become a full member, he was called a "Fellow of the Craft." In the sense that he had mastered the art and no longer needed a teacher, he was called a "Master Mason."

So far as his grade was concerned, these two terms meant the same thing. Such was the Operative meaning of the Fellowcraft.


We come next to the meaning of the term Speculative Masonry.

Operative Freemasonry began to decline about the time of the Reformation when Lodges became few in number and small in membership.

After a time, a few of the Lodges in England began to admit into membership men with no intention of practicing the trade of Operative Masonry, but were attracted by the Craft's antiquity and for social reasons.

These were called SPECULATIVE Masons.

At the beginning of the 18th century, the Speculatives had so increased their numbers that at last they gained control, and during the 1st quarter of that century, they completely transformed the Craft into the SPECULATIVE Fraternity as we know it today.  Although they adhered as closely as possible to the old customs, they were compelled to make some radical changes in order to fit the Society for its new purposes.

One of the most important of these changes was to abandon the old rule of dividing the members into two grades or degrees, and to adopt the new rule of dividing it into three grades or degrees.

It was necessary to find a name for the new degree. Therefore, the degrees of symbolic Masonry became known as the Entered Apprentice, Fellowcraft and Master Mason.

Symbolism of the Fellowcraft Degree

Previously 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 Entered 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.

What is that equipment ?

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 those advanced here.

Fellowcraft Degree Scriptures

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 is 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;
And Behold the Lord stood
Upon a wall made by a plumb-line
With a plumb-line in His hand.
And the Lord said unto me:
'Amos, what seest thou?
And I said, 'A plumb-line.'
Then said the Lord,
'Behold, I will set a plumb-line
In the midst of my people Israel,
I will not again pass by them any more."

(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.

  Active Participants

The following abbreviations are used throughout this degree.

WM..Worshipful Master

SW..Senior Warden

JW..Junior Warden

Tr. ..Treasurer

Sec.Secretary

SD..Senior Deacon

JD..Junior Deacon

SS..Senior Steward

JS..Junior Steward

Tyl..Tyler

Ch..Chaplain

Lect......Lecturer - designated by WM

Cand.Candidate

(*; * *; or * * *, normally signifies the number of raps

from a staff or gavel. In the case of the Senior Deacon, it

signifies his staff, pounding on the floor.  When done

at either the outer or inner door, it signifies a knock

on the door.  When done by the three principal officers

of the Lodge with their gavels it is called a battery.  When

the Worshipful Master raps once, everyone comes to

order and sits down, two raps Officers only stand, three

raps everyone stands.

(S) signifies the due-guard and sign being given as a

salutation to the Worshipful Master.)

Fellowcraft Degree - Opening the Lodge

 

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