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The Three Degrees of Freemasonry

Square and Compass

Fellowcraft Degree

Second Section - Middle Chamber Lecture

Back · Home · Next
(Officers and abbreviations)


Second Section - Middle Chamber Lecture

My Brother, Masonry is considered under two denominations, Operative and Speculative.

By Operative Masonry we allude to a proper application of the useful rules of architecture, whence a structure will derive figure, strength and beauty, and whence will result a due proportion and a just correspondence in all its parts. It furnishes us with dwellings and convenient shelter from the vicissitudes and inclemencies of seasons; and while it displays the effects of human wisdom, as well in the choice as in the arrangement of the sundry materials of which an edifice is composed, it demonstrates that a fund of science and industry is implanted in man for the best, most salutary and beneficent purposes.

By Speculative Masonry we learn to subdue the passions, act upon the square, keep a tongue of good report, maintain secrecy and practice charity. It is so far interwoven with religion as to lay us under obligation to pay that rational homage to Deity, which at once constitutes our duty, and our happiness. It leads the contemplative to view with reverence and admiration the glorious works of creation, and inspires him with the most exalted ideas of the perfection of his Divine Creator.

We work in Speculative Masonry only, but our ancient brethren wrought in Operative as well as in Speculative.

They worked six days before receiving their wages but did not work on the seventh, for in six days God created the Heaven and the earth, and rested upon the seventh day; the seventh, therefore, our ancient brethren consecrated as a day of rest from their labors, thereby enjoying frequent opportunities to contemplate the glorious works of creation, and to adore their great Creator.

The first thing that attracts your attention as we advance is a representation of two brazen pillars, one on the left hand, the other on the right. The one on the left hand is called Boaz and denotes strength; that on the right, Jachin, and denotes establishment. Together they allude to a promise made by God to David, that in strength would He establish His kingdom.

The pillars which these represent were cast in the clay-grounds on the plains of Jordan, between Succoth and Zeredatha, where all the Holy vessels for King Solomon's Temple were cast by one Hiram, a widow's son of the tribe of Naphtali. They were cast hollow, the better to serve as a safe repository for the archives of Masonry against all inundations and conflagrations.

They were twenty-five cubits in height, twelve in circumference and four in diameter, to which were added chapiters of five cubits each, making in all forty cubits. These chapiters were adorned with lily-work, network, and pomegranates, denoting peace, unity and plenty. The lily, from its purity and the retired situation in which it grows, denotes peace; the network, from the intimate connection of its parts, denotes unity; and the pomegranate, from the exuberance of its seeds, denotes plenty. These chapiters were further adorned with pommels on their tops, representing globes, which denotes Masonry universal.

These globes are two artificial spherical bodies, on the convex surfaces of which are represented the countries, seas, and various parts of the earth, the face of the heavens, the planetary revolutions, and other important particulars.

The sphere with the parts of the earth delineated on its surface is called the terrestrial globe, and that with the constellations and other heavenly bodies, the celestial globe.

Their principal use besides serving as maps to distinguish the outward parts of the earth and the situation of the fixed stars is to illustrate and explain the phenomena arising from the annual revolution of the earth around the sun, and the diurnal rotation upon its own axis. They are the noblest instruments for improving the mind, giving it the most distinct idea of any problem or proposition, as well as enabling it to solve the same.

Contemplating these bodies, we are inspired with a due reverence for Deity and His works, and are induced to encourage the studies of Astronomy, Geography, Navigation, and the Arts dependent on them, by which society has been so much benefited.

Passing the pillars, you next perceive a representation of a flight of winding stairs consisting of three, five and seven steps. The three steps allude to the three degrees conferred in every lodge; likewise to the three principal officers of the Lodge, the Worshipful Master, Senior and Junior Wardens.

The five steps allude to the five orders of architecture. By order in architecture is meant a system of all the members, proportions and ornaments of columns and pilasters; or it is the regular arrangement of the projecting parts of a building, which, united with those of a column, form a beautiful, perfect, and complete whole.

From the first formation of society, order in architecture may be traced. When the rigor of seasons obliged men to contrive shelter from the inclemency of the weather, we learn that they first planted trees on end, and then laid others across the top to support a covering. The bands which connected those trees at the top and bottom are said to have given rise to the idea of the base and capital of pillars; and from this simple hint originally proceeded the more improved art in architecture.

The five orders are thus classed: The Tuscan, Doric, Ionic, Corinthian and Composite.

The ancient and original orders of architecture, revered by Masons, are no more than the three, the Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian, which were invented by the Greeks. To these the Romans have added two: the Tuscan, which they made plainer than the Doric, and the Composite, which was more ornamental, if not more beautiful, than the Corinthian.

The first three alone show invention and particular character, and essentially differ from each other; the others have nothing but what is borrowed and differ only accidentally.

The Tuscan is the Doric in its earliest state, and the Composite is the Corinthian enriched with the Ionic. To the Greeks, therefore, and not to the Romans, are we indebted for what is great, judicious, and distinct in architecture.

The five steps further allude to the five human senses, which are Hearing, Seeing, Feeling, Smelling, and Tasting, the first three of which, Hearing, Seeing, and Feeling are deemed particularly essential among Masons; for by the sense of hearing we hear the word, by that of seeing we see the sign, and by that of feeling we feel the grip by which one Mason may know another in the dark as well as in the light.

The seven steps allude to the seven liberal arts and sciences which are Grammar, Rhetoric, Logic, Arithmetic, Geometry, Music and Astronomy; the fifth of which, Geometry, is most revered among Masons.

By this science the architect is enabled to construct his plans and execute his designs, the general to arrange his soldiers, the engineer to mark out grounds for encampments, the geographer to give us the dimensions of the world and all things therein contained; to delineate the extent of seas and specify the divisions of empires, kingdoms, and provinces. By it also the astronomer is enabled to make his observations and to fix the duration of times and seasons, years, and cycles. In fine, Geometry is the foundation of architecture and the root of mathematics. For this and many other reasons, the number seven is held in high estimation among Masons.

Passing the flight of winding stairs, we shall next arrive at a place representing the outer door or the Middle Chamber of King Solomon's Temple, which we shall find strictly tiled by the Junior Warden. We will endeavor to pass.

[SD conducts Cn to the South.]

JW - (*) [Rises.] Who comes here? [SD steps back.]

SD - A craftsman on his way to the Middle Chamber.

JW - How does he expect to gain admission?

SD - By the pass and token of the pass.

JW - Give me the pass.

SD - Shibboleth.

JW - What does it denote?

SD - Plenty.

JW - How is it represented?

SD - By ears of corn suspended near a waterford.

JW - Whence did it originate as a pass?

SD - In consequence of a quarrel between Jephtha, Judge of Israel, and the Ephraimites. The Ephraimites had long been a turbulent and rebellious people, whom Jephtha sought to subdue by mild and lenient means, but without effect. They, being highly incensed at not being called to fight and share in the rich spoils of the Ammonitish war, and fraught with vengeance, gathered together a mighty army and crossed over Jordan to give Jephtha battle. But he, being apprised of their approach, assembled the men of Gilead, gave them battle, and put them to flight; and in order to make his victory more complete, he placed guards at the several passes on the river Jordan and commanded that should any attempt to pass that way, to demand of them "say Shibboleth"; but they, being of a different tribe could not frame to pronounce it right, but said "sibbolet," which trifling defect proved them enemies and cost them their lives. And there fell at that time of the Ephraimites forty and two-thousand, since which this word has been adopted as a pass by which to gain admission into all regular and well-governed Lodges of Fellowcrafts.

JW - Give me the token. [SD assists Cn in shaking JW's hand, placing the Cn's thumb between the first and second knuckle of the JW.] The pass is right, the token is right, pass on Brother. [JW is seated.]

SD - We shall next arrive at the inner door which we shall find strongly guarded by the Senior Warden. We will give the regular alarm and see if we can gain admission. [At SW station, SD gives (***) with rod.]

SW - (*) [Rises.] Who comes here? [SD steps back.]

SD - A craftsman on his way to the Middle Chamber.

SW - How does he expect to gain admission?

SD - By the grip and word of a Fellowcraft.

SW - Give me the grip. [SD assists Cn in shaking SW's hand, placing the Cn's thumb on the second knuckle of the SW.] Has it a name?

SD - It has.

SW - Will you give it me?

SD - I did not so receive it, neither will I so impart it.

SW - How will you dispose of it?

SD - I will letter and syllable it with you.

SW - Letter it and begin.

SD - Begin you.

SW - No, you begin.

SD - A.

SW - C.

SD - H.

SW - I.

SD - J.

SW - N.


SW - JA.


SW - The grip is right, the word is right, pass on Brother. [SW is seated.]

SD - [Conducts Cn toward the East, saying...] Having now satisfactorily passed the outer and inner doors, we shall next arrive at a place representing the Middle Chamber of King Solomon's Temple, and in the presence of the Worshipful Master. [Arriving at dais, WM rises, SD releases Cn, returns to place and is seated.]

WM - My brother, you have now arrived at a place representing the Middle Chamber of King Solomon's Temple and are entitled to be received and recorded as a Fellowcraft. Brother Secretary will make the record.

You are now entitled to the wages of a Fellowcraft which are corn, wine and oil; the corn of nourishment, the wine of refreshment, and the oil of joy, denoting plenty, health and peace.

You are also entitled to the jewels of a Fellowcraft which are an attentive ear, an instructive tongue, and a faithful breast. The attentive ear receives the sound from the instructive tongue, and the mysteries of Freemasonry are safely lodged in the repository of a faithful breast.

I will now direct your attention to the letter G as the initial of Geometry. Geometry, the first and noblest of the sciences, is the basis on which the superstructure of Masonry is erected. By Geometry, we may curiously trace nature through her various windings to her most concealed recesses. By it we discover the power, the wisdom, and the goodness of the Grand Artificer of the Universe, and view with delight the proportions which connect this vast machine. By it we discover how the planets move in their different orbits and demonstrate their various revolutions. By it we account for the return of seasons and the variety of scenes which each season displays to the discerning eye. Numberless worlds are around us, all framed by the same Divine Artist, which roll through the vast expanse, and are all conducted by the same unerring law of nature.

A survey of nature and the observation of her beautiful proportions first determined man to imitate the Divine plan and study symmetry and order. This gave rise to societies and birth to every useful art. The architect began to design, and the plans which he laid down, being improved by experience and time, have produced works which are the admiration of every age.

The lapse of time, the ruthless hand of ignorance, and the devastations of war have laid waste and destroyed many valuable monuments of antiquity, on which the utmost of exertions of human genius have been employed. Even the Temple of Solomon, so spacious and magnificent, and constructed by so many celebrated artists, escaped not the unsparing ravages of barbarous force. Freemasonry, notwithstanding, has still survived. The Attentive Ear receives the sound from the Instructive Tongue, and the mysteries of Freemasonry are safely lodged in the repository of a Faithful Breast.

Tools and implements of architecture and symbolic emblems most expressive are selected by the Fraternity to imprint on the mind wise and serious truths; and thus, through a succession of ages are transmitted, unimpaired, the excellent tenets of our Institution.

WM - (***) [All rise. WM descends to the floor, takes position beside Cn facing East and uncovers.] I will again cite your attention to the letter G which has a higher and holier allusion. It alludes to the sacred name of Deity, before whom all, from the youngest Entered Apprentice who stands in the Northeast Corner of the Lodge, to the Worshipful Master who presides in the East, together with all created intelligence, should bow with reverence, must humbly bow.

[All bow to the letter G in unison with the WM.]

[WM recovers, returns to station in the East.]

WM - (*) [All are seated.]




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