Interpretation of the 2nd Degree


The Second Degree; The 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 apprentices, was explained to you in our November issue.


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 Masonry 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 and 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 some radical changes to further 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 Fellowcraft; you have passed through the ceremonies, assumed the obligations of the Fellowcraft’s Degree, and are registered as a Fellowcraft in the books of the Lodge. You can sit in your own Lodge when open as either a lodge of Apprentices, or of Fellowcrafts, but not as Master Masons. Your duties are to do and be all that a Fellowcraft’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 the 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. An Interpretation of the Ritual of the Second Degree.


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 his life, his pathway lighted by the rays of the shining 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 in the quarries. The description is suggestive, for it is by men in the Fellow Craft period in 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 form 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 though seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling and tasting – 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. Were we to 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 form another, ignorant of the secrets and arts 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 symbols, 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 the 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 and adequate (Wisdom).

Masonic Charity


We are reminded in this degree that “And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor…and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.”


Charity has nothing in particular to do with the rich. Any person, however poor he may be, who has charity in his heart is blessed, for he practices it in various little ways in spite of his slender means.


The members of Lodges are not rich. Yet their works of Charity stand for all to see. Individual Masons are expected to extend their love to and help all mankind. Truly, for the candidate who asks “What purpose does Masonry serve?” we have here the answer. To care for our own, to aid the distressed, to teach that Charity extends beyond the grave, shows the great purpose of our association, one with another.

Symbols and Allegories of the Second Degree.


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 stair 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 thought 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 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 that Deity in whose existence all Masons have professed belief, the continued expression of which is symbolized by 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 Two Pillars.


Probably no item of the furniture of a lodge is more easily traced to King Solomon’s Temple than The Two Pillars. While it must be admitted that license was taken with the description in several essentials, no doubt exists of their actual existence, for no less that four accounts appear in the Bible, and Josephus, in his Antiquities, authoritatively verifies their existence. I Kings 7:21, II Kings 25:13 and Jeremiah 52:20 say that they were set up “in the porch of the Temple” or “in the Temple.” II Chronicles 3:15,17 says the pillars were erected “before the house”


In the same passage from Second Chronicles we read – “Also he made before the house two pillars of thirty and five cubits high and the chapiter that was on the top of each was five cubits.” Other accounts (I Kings 7:15, Jeremiah 52:12, II Kings 25:17) place their height at 18 cubits.


Since a cubit is considered the equivalent of 18 inches, the variance would extend from 27 feet to over 50 feet. Too the references to the chapiters vary in their description and seem to indicate that the pommels or globes were, in fact, a part of the chapiters. I Kings 7:17-21 describes the net of checker work and wreaths of chain work for the chapiters, and the rows of pomegranates upon the chapiters “over against the belly” and the lily work upon the top of the pillars. Another passage (II Chronicles 4:12-13) describes the wreaths and pomegranates covering the two pommels of the chapiters, which were on top of the pillars.


The names of the Pillars are, however, not a matter of doubt, all authorities agreeing on the names and their meanings. Whatever symbolism is interpreted for other aspects of their form, no doubt exists of the meaning of their names, for combined, they give the meaning “In strength will God establish” These two brazen pillars, therefore, with their globes should remind us of the reverence due the deity and His works, and of the knowledge of the ancient geometricians, astronomers, and geographers, and that of the arts and sciences ”by which mankind has been so much benefited.”

Duties and Privileges of a Fellowcraft


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 for his Masonic life in the future.


His limitations are equally plain. He may sit in his lodge only when open on the Fellowcraft or Entered Apprentice Degree. He is not entitled to vote, to hold office, to have a voice in the administration of the lodge, now would he be entitled to relief, or to join in public Masonic processions. He is, however, entitled to a Masonic Funeral.


He has a right to instruction whereby he may prove himself proficient in open Lodge; and he can make himself known to other Fellowcrafts by means of his modes of recognition.


A Mason remains a Fellowcraft, 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 still a 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 Fellowcraft. 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 Fellowcrafts 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, toleration, 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 most difficult practiced in their period. The Masons were masters of mathematics, which they called Geometry, or engineering, of the principles of design, or carving, of stained
glass, and of mosaic. Through all the changes of the Craft in after years, through it’s 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 is truly signified by our term “Fellow Craft” Whenever you prove yourself a friend of enlightenment, whenever you become and enemy of bigotry or intolerance, and a champion of the mind right to be free, to do it’s 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 Fellow Craft’s Degree.

Fellowcraft: The Wages — Corn Wine and Oil.


Corn, Wine, and Oil symbolize the wealth of life in the mental and spiritual, not financial realms. In the Old Testament, these three were physical wealth; in Freemasonry, Corn represents plenty, referring to opportunity, friends, work; Oil represents joy, happiness, gladness; Wine represents health, spirituality, and peace. Together Corn, Wine and Oil represent the rewards of a good life. They are also the elements of consecration used in Masonic Cornerstone layings and in the constitution and the dedication of Masonic Halls.


One of the early references to these material blessings of mankind is found in that passage from the Old Testament recited by some Grand Chaplains in the ceremony of constitution of newly chartered lodges.


“And thou shall take the anointing oil and anoint the tabernacle and all that is herein and shall hallow it and all that is thereof; and it shall be holy. I will give you the rain of your land in his due season, the first rain and the latter rain, that thou mayest gather in thy corn, of thy vine and of thine oil, and the first of the fleece of thy sheep, shall thou give him.”


As the newly chartered lodge is anointed with an offering of corn, wine and oil, so too, do we make an offering when laying the cornerstones of new Lodge Halls, schools, civic buildings, and churches. At cornerstone ceremonies, some Grand Masters explain:


“In ancient times the laying of a cornerstone of a great edifice was the occasion of a sacrificial rite. To the primitive mind, it appeared as an undertaking which would provoke the jealousy of the Deity unless a blood sacrifice was offered. Archaeology has uncovered mute evidence of this practice.”


“However, the advance of civilization, man’s changing concept of the Deity, from a jealous and vengeful God to a God of love and mercy, has changed the ceremony to one of joy and thanksgiving. The Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons, looking ever to the goodness and compassion of the Great Architect of the Universe, lays cornerstones with an offering of Corn, Wine, and Oil.”


In these ceremonies, we learn that the fruits of our labor are to be used for the most beneficent purposes, that a portion is to be set aside for the service of God and the distressed and that we then will have truly earned the Corn of Nourishment, the Wine of Refreshment, and the Oil of Joy.

The teachings of Masonry; Fellowcraft


You have now had conferred upon you the First and Second Degrees of Craft Masonry, and while you have yet to reach the climax of your journey in the Sublime Degree of a Master Mason, already you have discovered that Freemasonry has a certain teaching of its own, and to expound upon it one of the principle functions of the Ritual.


You have likewise discovered that Masonry’s method of teaching is unlike that of the schools. Instead of employing teachers and textbooks and lessons in didactic form, expounding its teachings in words, Freemasonry uses ritual, symbol, and allegory. This is not as easy to follow as the schoolroom method, but it has this great advantage: it makes a mason study and learn for himself, forces him to search out the truth, compels him to take the initiative, so that the very act of learning is of educational value. The purpose of secrecy is not to keep a candidate in the dark, but to stimulate him to seek the light; the symbols and emblems do not conceal the teaching, they reveal it, but in such a manner that a man must find it for himself. Only when a man finds truth for himself is it likely to remain a permanent possession.


A few interpretations of Masonic teachings can only suggest what you will find by your own efforts, how you will find it, and where. Necessarily, there can be no exhaustive exposition of Masonic truth because, in it’s nature, it is something each man must discover for himself.


Freemasonry is devoted to Brotherhood, exists to furnish opportunities to its members to enjoy it not only for it’s own sake, but as a means to something beyond. Brotherhood rests on a religious basis; we are all Brothers because God is the Father of us all; therefore a religious basis is one of the foundations of Masonry.


Masonry is dedicated to God, the Great Architect of the Universe. An Altar at the center of every Lodge room bears the Holy Bible open upon it. Lodges begin and end their meetings with prayer. Applicants must believe in a Supreme Being. All this is genuine religion, not a formal religiousness; it is sincerely held and scrupulously upheld and, without this basis, the Craft would wither and die like a tree with roots destroyed.


But, this religion of Masonry, like all its teachings, is not set forth in written creeds; the Mason must come upon it for himself, and put it in such form as will satisfy his own mind, leaving others to do likewise. This is Masonic tolerance, one of the prime principles of the craft, and protected by the Old Charge which forbids all sectarian discussion in our assemblies.


Masonry teaches the necessity of Morality, requiring its members to be good men and true, righteous when tried by the Square, upright when tried by the Plumb, their passions kept in due bounds by the Compass; just in their dealings with their fellows, patient with the erring, charitable and honorable. A candidate must possess such a character as indicated to be qualified for admittance, and a Mason must persevere in it to retain his right to membership.


Through the agency of the Lodge and of the Grand Lodge, each of us give support to the charities maintained by both. Also, each of us should privately extend a helping hand in relief of an unfortunate Brother, or of his dependents. Masonry does not advocate a charity carried to the limits of fanaticism; it is limited
by the extent of ability and opportunity, and we are not asked to give relief injurious to ourselves, or hardship to our families.


Another of Masonry’s great teachings is Equality symbolized by the Level. This does not represent that impossible doctrine which would erase all distinctions, and holds that in all respects, all men are the same. There are no duplicates in Nature. Men are unequal physically, intellectually, morally, and spiritually. Heredity and environment are constant forces. It is, rather, the principle that we owe good will, charity, tolerance, and truthfulness equally to all, and that, within our Fraternity, all men travel the same road of initiation, take the same obligations, pay the same dues, and have the same duties, rights, and privileges.


The Mason is a good citizen, loyal to his government and just to his country, conducting himself as a wise and moral man, remembering in all things that he has in his keeping the good name of his Fraternity.


These teachings are bound together in an organic unity by the nature and needs of that Brotherhood for the sake of which the whole system of the Craft exists. To endure through all vicissitudes, and to satisfy our natures, Brotherhood must have a spiritual basis, hence the importance of our conception of religion. Brotherhood requires that men must be held together by unbreakable ties, hence the necessity for morality, which is a name for the forces that bind us together in ethical relations. Differences in beliefs and opinions must not rupture these bonds, hence the need for tolerance. Men cannot easily come together except they have the same rights and privileges, hence the necessity of equality. They cannot work together except all understand the work to be done, hence the need of enlightenment. They will not be drawn together except they are filled with that spirit of good will which necessarily expresses itself in charity and relief. And Brotherhood cannot exist, except in a nation which admits of it, hence the need for Masons to be good citizens. Through all the teachings of Masonry run these principles which lead back to the conception and practice of Brotherhood; from that conception all teachings emerge, to it all come in the end. Gain a clear understanding of that, and you will have that secret by which all else is made plain.