At the end of the first harvest in the new world, the Pilgrims at Plymouth along with Chief Massassoit and a party of 90 friendly Indians joined in a celebratory act that consisted of “three days of prayer and feasting.”
The Mayflower passengers that signed the agreement that became known as the “Mayflower Compact” stated they had come to the New World to escape religious persecution and “for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian faith.” They endured a stormy voyage across the Atlantic Ocean at the worst possible time of the year and later participated in that festival to give thanks to Almighty God. The Pilgrims were thankful they had survived a stormy voyage, endured a terrible winter, and had been blessed with a good harvest that provided them with food.
Food was scarce during that terrible winter, their first in the new world. Hezekiah Butterworth, an American author of the last half of the nineteenth century, passed on information that the daily ration of food was five grains of parched corn. During that winter, 47 members of the original 102 died, and at any one time, only “six or seven were in proper condition to attend the sick and bury the dead” on Cole’s Hill. Yet, in spite of the hardships they endured and the sufferings they experienced, those sturdy Pilgrims at Plymouth, after inviting the friendly natives to join them, paused to celebrate and to give thanks to God for his providential care.
Lest we forget, this is the heritage the Pilgrims passed on to us.
A national holiday, celebrated with a festive turkey feast, commemorates it, but the heritage of those sturdy Pilgrims reminds us that true thanksgiving is more. While surrounded by an abundance of things which are the accouterments of an affluent society, we must not forget that back of these things there is the providential care of Almighty God, and like the Pilgrims, we are recipients of that care.
To see life from this perspective is to see that God’s mercies, new every morning and fresh every evening, are more than we can number. So, gratitude rises in the heart, and we are thankful.
Author: W. Howard Coop, KCCH
Nov/ Dec 2010 Scottish Rite Journal
“. . . travel in foreign countries and receive Master’s Wages.” Our Operative brethren received their Master’s Wages in coin of the realm.
Speculatives content themselves with intangible wages - and occasionally some are hard pressed to explain to the wondering initiate just what, in this practical age, a Master’s Wages really are.
The wages of a Master may be classified under two heads; first, those inalienable rights which every Freemason enjoys as a result of fees, initiation and the payment of annual dues to his Lodge; second, those more precious privileges which are his if he will but stretch out his hand to take.
The first right of which any initiate is conscious is that of passing the Tiler and attending his Lodge, instead of being conducted through the West gate as a preliminary step to initiation. For a time this right of mingling with his new brethren is so engrossing that he looks no further for his Master’s Wages. Later he learns that he also has the right of visitation in other Lodges, even though it is a “right” hedged about with restrictions. He must be in good standing to exercise it. It will be denied him should any brother object to his visit. If he is unaffiliated, in most Jurisdictions, he can exercise it but once in any one Lodge. If private business (such as election of officers or a lodge trial, etc.) is scheduled, the Master of the Lodge he would visit may refuse him entrance. But in general this right of visiting other Lodges is a very real part of what may be termed his concrete Master’s Wages, and many are the Freemasons who find in it a sure cure for loneliness in strange places; who think of the opportunity to find welcome and friends where otherwise they would be alone, as wages of substantial character.
The opportunities to see and hear the beautiful ceremonies of Freemasonry, to take from them again an again a new thought, are wages not to be lightly received. For him with the open ears and the inquiring mind, the degrees lead to a new world, since familiarity with ritual provides the key by which he may read an endless stream of books about Freemasonry.
The Craft has a glorious history; a symbolism the study of which is endless; a curious legal structure of which law-minded men never tire’ is so interwoven with the story of the nation as to make the thoughtful thrill; joins hands with religion in the secret places of the heart in a manner both tender and touching. These “foreign countries” have neither gate nor guard at the frontier . . . the Master Mason may cross and enter at his will, sure of wages wherever he wanders within their borders.
Master’s Wages are paid in acquaintances. Unless a newly-made Master Mason is so shy and retiring that he seeks the farthest corner of his Lodge Room, there to sit and shrink into himself, inevitably he will become acquainted with many men of many minds, always an interesting addition to the joy of life. What he does with his acquaintances is another story, but at least the wages are there, waiting for him. No honest man insures his house thinking it will burn, but the insurance policy in the safe is a great comfort, well worth all that it costs. It speaks of help should fire destroy his home; it assures that all its owner has saved in material wealth will not be lost should carelessness or accident start a conflagration.
No honest man becomes a Freemason thinking to ask the Craft for relief. Yet the consciousness that poor is the Lodge and sodden the hearts of the brethren thereof from which relief will not be forthcoming if the need is bitter, is wages from which comfort may be taken.
Freemasonry is not, “re se,” a relief organization. It does not exist merely for the purpose of dispensing charity. Nor has it great funds with which to work its gentle ministrations to the poor. Fees are modest; dues are often too small rather than too large. Yet, for the brother down and out, who has no coal for the fire, no food for his hungry child, whom sudden disaster threatens, the strong arm of the Fraternity stretches forth to push back the danger. The cold are warmed, the hungry fed, the naked clothed, the jobless given work, the discouraged heartened.
Master’s Wages, surely far greater than the effort put forth to earn them.
Relief is not limited to a brother’s own Lodge. In most Jurisdictions there is a Masonic Home, in which, at long last, a brothers weary body may rest, his tired feet cease their wandering. No Freemason who has visited any Masonic Home and there seen old brethren and their widows eased down the last long hill in peace and comfort; the children of Masons under friendly influences which insure safe launching of little ships on the sea of life; comes away thankful that there is such a haven for him, should he need it, even if he hopes never to ask for its aid.
Stranded in a strange place, no Freemason worries about getting aid. In all large centers is a Board of Masonic Relief to hear his story, investigate his credentials and start the machinery by which his Lodge may help him. In smaller places is almost invariably a Lodge with brethren glad to give a sympathetic hearing to his troubles. To the brother in difficulty in what to him is a “foreign country,” ability to prove himself a Freemason is Master’s Wages, indeed.
Freemasonry is strong in defense of the helpless. The Widow and the orphan need ask but once to receive bounty. All brethren hope to support their own, provide for their loved ones, but misfortune comes to the just and unjust alike. To be one of a world wide brotherhood on which widow and child may call is of untold comfort, Master’s Wages more precious than the coin of gold.
Finally is the right of Masonic burial. At home or abroad no Freemason, know to desire it, but is followed to his last home by sorrowing brethren who lay him away under the apron of the Craft and the Sprig of Acacia of immortal hope. This, too, is Wages of a Master.
“Pay the Craft their Wages, if any be due . . .”
To some the practical wages briefly mentioned above are the important payments for a Freemason’s work. To others, the more intangible but none the less beloved opportunities to give, rather than get, are the Master’s Wages which count them.
Great among these is the Craft’s opportunity for service. The world is full of chances to do for others, and no man need apply to a Masonic Lodge only because he wants a chance to “do unto others as he would others do unto him.” But Freemasonry offer peculiar opportunities to unusual talents which are not always easily found in the profane world.
There is always something to do in a Lodge. There are always committees to be served - and committee work is usually thankless work. He who cannot find his payment in his satisfaction of a task well done will receive no Master’s Wages for his labors on Lodge committees.
There are brethren to be taught. Learning all the “work” is a man’s task, not to be accomplished in a hurry. Yet it is worth the doing, and in instructing officers and candidates many a Mason has found a quiet joy which is Master’s Wages pressed down and running over.
Service leads to the possibility of appointment or election to the line of officers. There is little to speak of the Master’s Wages this opportunity pays, because only those who have occupied the Oriental Chair know what they are. The outer evidence of the experience may be told, but the inner spiritual experience is untellable because the words have not been invented.
But Past Masters know! To them is issued a special coinage of Master’s Wages which only a Worshipful Master may earn. Ask any of them if they do not pay well for the labor.
If practical Master’s Wages are acquaintances in Lodge, the enjoyment of fellowship, merged into friendship, is the same payment in larger form. Difficult to describe, the sense of being one of a group, the solidarity of the circle which is the Lodge, provides a satisfaction and pleasure impossible to describe as it is clearly to be felt. It is interesting to meet many men of many walks of life; it is heart- warming continually to meet the same group, always with the same feeling of equality. High and low, rich and poor, merchant and money-changer, banker and broom-maker, doctor and ditch-digger all meet on the level, and find it happy - Master’s Wages, value untranslatable into money.
Ethereal as a flower scent, dainty as a butterfly’s wing, yet to some as strong as any strand of the Mystic Tie all Freemasons know and none describe, is that feeling of being a part of the historic past. To have knelt at the same Altar before which George Washington prayed; to have taken the same obligation which bound our brethren of the Mother Grand Lodge of 1717; to be spiritually kin with Elias Ashmole; to feel friendly with Oliver, Preston, Krause, Goethe, Sir Christopher Wren, Marshall, Anthony Sayer to mention only a few; to be a brother of Craftsmen who formed the Boston Tea Party; to stand at Bunker Hill with Warren and ride with brother Paul Revere; to be an apprentice at the building of St. Paul’s; to learn the Knot from a Comacine Master; to follow the Magister in a Roman “Collegium,” aye, even to stand awed before those mysteries of ancient peoples, and perhaps see a priest raise the dead body of Osiris from a dead level to a living perpendicular - these are mental experiences not to be forgotten when counting up Master’s Wages.
Finally - and best - is the making of many friends.
Thousands of brethren count their nearest and their dearest friends on the rolls of the Lodge they love and serve. The Mystic Tie makes for friendship It attracts man to man and often draws together “those who might otherwise have remained at a perpetual distance.”
The teachings of broth-erly love, relief and truth; of temperance, fortitude, prudence and justice; the inculcation of patriotism and love of country, are everyday experiences in a Masonic Lodge. When men speak freely those thoughts which, in the world without, they keep silent, friendships are formed.
Count gain for work well done in what coin seems most valuable; the dearest of the intangibles which come to any Master Mason are those Masonic friendships than which there “are” no greater Master’s Wages.
The first Grand Lodge was formed in London, shortly after the suppression of the Jacobite rising in 1715. Anderson's New Book of Constitutions of 1738 records that a few lodges at London finding themselves neglected by Sir Christopher Wren, thought fit to cement together under a Grand Master as the Center of Union and Harmony, viz. (here follow details of the four lodges at the Goose and Gridiron, Crown, Apple-Tree, and Rummer and Grapes).
They and some old Brothers met at the said Applerree, and having put into the Chair the oldest Master Mason (now the Master of a Lodge) they constituted themselves a GRAND LODGE pro Tempore in Due Form, and forthwith revived the Quarterly Communication of the Officers of Lodges (call'd the Grand Lodge) "resolv'd to hold the Annual ASSEMBLY and Feast, and then to chuse a GRAND MASTER from among themselves, till they should have the Honour of a Noble Brother at their Head."
The first meeting was held at the Goose and Gridiron Ale-house on 24 June, 1717, and Antony Sayer was elected and installed as Grand Master, before the brethren proceeded to dinner. The Grand Master commanded that the Masters and Wardens of lodges meet the Grand Officers every quarter in Communication. In fact the Grand Lodge only met annually for the feast for several years. Nevertheless, each meeting was called a Quarterly Communication, at whatever interval it met, and the Grand Lodge of England still maintains a quarterly Communication . The brethren who established the Grand Lodge claimed, or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that Anderson reported that they claimed, to be reviving the Grand Lodge. In his somewhat imaginative history of the Craft, Anderson mentions several assemblies of masons, but there is no real evidence that there had ever before been such a thing as a Grand Lodge. Probably they had in mind the annual gatherings of the great London Companies, and wanted to establish something similar for themselves.
These box societies, masonic or otherwise, usually admitted new members with some form of ceremony, and had secret means of recognition. They met for social occasions, and carried out at least some form of charitable work for their own members. Most of them, like the guilds before them, were purely local in character.
Masons from very early times had been accustomed to travel in search of work, and to expect assistance from lodges wherever they found one. Dr. Robert Plot in The Natural History of Stafford-shire written in 1686 mentions the peculiar customs of the Masons, the fact that they had admission ceremonies and secret means of recognition, and the right to claim assistance from brethren anywhere in the country.
Whether the founding lodges revived or formed Grand Lodge, there can be no doubt that they did not intend to establish an authoritarian body that would undertake the government of the Craft. Had such a thought occurred to them, most of them would almost certainly have voted against the proposal .
However the four founding lodges may have viewed the matter, it was inevitable that when such a body existed, it should come to be regarded as the head of the Craft. At first its jurisdiction was limited to the cities of London and Westminster, a comparatively small area, but gradually it began to receive requests for recognition from further afield. Probably the first sign of this authority was in the formation of new lodges.
Modern Grand Lodges
What is the purpose of a Grand Lodge today? First and foremost it is an organization that can guarantee the regularity of the lodges under its control. Without the authority of the Grand Lodge, no mason traveling in another Grand Jurisdiction could hope to be received into lodges in the course of his travels. A primary function is diplomatic recognition. The necessary consequence of this function is that the Grand Lodge must ensure that all of its lodges are regularly formed and managed, and that they continue to adhere to the Ancient Landmarks .
Few Grand Lodges have attempted to define these Landmarks. Masons would probably differ in any list they might produce, but I doubt if many would have difficulty in recognizing things which clearly transgress those Landmarks. In case of doubt, Grand Lodge must decide whether a particular custom does or does not conform to the Landmarks, and by so doing it prevents any small group from taking over a lodge, and ensures that its Lodges remain regular, and therefore acceptable to other Grand Lodges.
Another major function is in organizing and managing the charitable side of the Craft. Charity has been a feature of Freemasonry from the very beginning of its organized existence. What is now the Fund of Benevolence in England was started under the name of the General Charity in 1727, and by 1731 all the lodges which had accepted the government of the new Grand Lodge were already paying into a central fund for the relief of poor masons and their families. Masonic Homes, scholarship funds, hospitals, drug and alcohol abuse programs, childhood illness clinics are all examples of charities handled at the Grand Lodge level through Grand Lodge. In short, Grand Lodge administers the various charities which masons subscribe to, which are not controlled by independent boards.
Regular organized meetings of Grand Lodge are a feature of Masonry under all jurisdictions, and have been from earliest times. Many masons are critical of the Annual Communication as a waste of time and money. I believe that such meetings, not only for the transaction of masonic business, but also for the exchange of views and for social purposes are valuable, and help to strengthen the fraternal bond.
The power to constitute a new lodge belongs to Grand Lodge, the function of consecrating it is vested in the Grand Master.
Grand Lodge's legislative function is to pass laws for the good government of the Craft, and in its executive capacity, to administer them. It also has power to determine in its judicial capacity disputes over masonic matters, and to discipline members who transgress the rules. This is no different from the powers of any other club or society. In carrying out those functions, Grand Lodge appoints Executive Boards, appoints and employs officers, maintains records, and of necessity levies fees to pay for its work.
In the interests of reasonable uniformity, it lays down rules as to regalia, and ritual, the way in which its lodges are governed, the term of office of the Master, and the records the lodge must keep. All Grand Lodges have rules covering most of those points. Some rules are matters of masonic tradition, some are inserted, for example, because they provide a simple rule book for the guidance of secretaries and treasurers, most of whom are not professional record keepers.
Purpose of Craft Lodges:
The original purposes of lodges of non operative masons were to offer support and encouragement in time of difficulty, to provide a vehicle for charity, and to dispense financial help where needed, to encourage good principles, and to meet the need of all men for congenial society. I do not think the purposes are any different today.
There are many reasons why different men join, or remain in lodge, but I think that there are several which all of us will recognize.
For most, the ritual is a continual source of joy. It is generally good, and sometimes superb prose, something that today we are starved for. The Church no longer supplies it, radio sometimes, and television and modern literature almost never. Yet the appeal of good writing is revealed at any meeting in the breathless hush when one of the great charges is well delivered, or the injunction to charity, or the address to the Master at the Installation. (as examples)
Where, today, does the average man receive any instruction in ethics and good conduct? From the Church, if he attends, probably, from radio sometimes, but from television and modern literature, with their emphasis on evil, degradation, lust and violence, almost never. Contrary to what we are led to believe in the press, television, and literature, the majority of people prefer good to evil, seek to do the best they can, enjoy the beauty of the world, weep when they must, and laugh when they can. Yet virtue does not spring full armed in the soul of man. It is learned, as the prophet tells us, precept upon precept, line upon line, here a little and there a little, and in that way Masonry leaves its imprint on the souls of the men who listen to, and try to observe its precepts.
Another need for most is the opportunity to do something for others. I believe that lodges should be putting more emphasis than they do on the charitable work of the Craft.
We have not kept pace with the times, and much of the apathy that exists in lodges is quite simply because we have drifted, and have not presented worthwhile challenges to our brethren.
Like the societies from which we sprang, we should be careful to offer comfort and support to our brethren and their families in time of trouble and affliction. This is not the duty of the Almoner, in exoneration of the rest of us, but a duty imposed by our membership in the Craft. Each of us should make sure that we are aware of the troubles of our fellows, and ever ready to pour the healing balm of consolation into the bosom of the afflicted, and to drop a tear of sympathy over the failings of a brother.
At a different level, masonry is a means of self improvement. Most of us are not orators, and all will remember the trepidation when first we raised our voices at instruction. To learn to speak so that we are heard, to think on our feet, and not be paralyzed by nerves when called upon to say a few words is surely a worthwhile use of time.
Finally, all men need relaxation and social life. Why did masonry prosper in the fifties and sixties? Surely because men enjoyed their masonry, and spoke enthusiastically about it so that others wanted to join. Let us bring the fun back into masonry. Let us enjoy the present time, without looking over our shoulders at a vanished past, or dreading a future which may never come. If we learn to make our gatherings pleasant and enjoyable social occasions, which we remember and talk about with pleasure, it is just possible that the world will once more seek to join us, because it is good and pleasant for brethren to dwell together in unity.
PM A. W. Wood
United Masters Lodge No.167
Auckland, New Zealand 1990
This word is a shortening of Fellow o f the Craft. A fellow is a comrade, an associate of equal rank and privilege. In the development of learned societies and universities following the Renaissance, a Fellow was a distinguished member of an educated group or college faculty. For example, the Fellows of Magdalen College, Oxford, are a group of eminent scholars and teachers who enjoy a certain equality of rank and privilege because of their Fellowship. The Fellows of the Royal Society of London are the modern successors to the outstanding men of science and letters who founded that organization in the seventeenth century, at the time when operative Masonry was evolving into the social, charitable, and philosophic institution we call Freemasonry today. As Fellows they hold a grade of membership above that of an ordinary Member. A similar distinction may be found in the membership of the Philalethes Society, an association of American Freemasons.
A Fellow of the Craft originally was a worker who had completed his term of service as an apprentice, and after a further period of employment and experience as a journeyman, had been received into the Fellowship of his guild or "trade union". In the case of workers in stone, they passed into the Fellowship of the Lodge. They became associates, or equal comrades, because they were now believed to be "of great skill, tried and trusty". The term Fellowcraft was used in other trades and guilds besides the Masons' association; but is survival in modern times is exclusively Masonic.
Today's Fellowcraft is a thin shadow of his operative counterpart. Too many Masons remember their experience in this degree but vaguely. A shadowy recollection of the working tools, of two bronze pillars, of an ascent up a flight of winding stairs, of a long lecture about the seven liberal arts and sciences, something about wages, the Middle Chamber of King Solomon's Temple, and the letter "G", and the realization that he still had another degree to "take" before he could really become a member of the Lodge, - these are the principal remembrances which the average modern Mason can summon when he hears the word Fellowcraft.
In some Lodges, where the unfortunate tendency to shorten or to omit large parts of the Middle Chamber Lecture is habitual, the members are even poorer in the memories that they have stored up about a significant initiatory experience. Yet to those who view the history of operative Masonry only through a golden aura of legend and idealism, it may prove disappointing to learn that such modern Freemasons are reflecting an attitude or practice of operative Masons concerning the experience of "passing". Many operative craftsmen never bothered to become Fellows of the Craft; but they acted from very practical and economic reasons. Furthermore, they had already received the ritualistic instruction which is reserved for the modern Fellowcraft.
It must be remembered that mediaeval guild Masonry, and its extension through the period of the Renaissance up to the eighteenth century when Speculative Freemasonry was formally organized, was never a fixed and changeless thing. Like all human institutions it grew and adapted itself to changing conditions. Therefore, all statements about the practices and principles of operative craftsmen must be prefixed by the phrase, "Generally speaking...... or "In such and such a century . . .". No descriptive statement about Fellows of the Craft can ever apply to all workers in stone at all times and in all places. Conditions varied widely from one locality to another; regulations were stricter in the cities, where Councils could control the workers more easily.
The Short Talk Bulletin of September, 1959, presented picture of the operative apprentice. He was a worker indentured to a master for a specific period of training, usually seven years. At the time of his indenture he was "booked", i.e., his contract was registered with the municipal authorities. When he had acquired sufficient skill and dependability in his work, and when his master was ready to guarantee his fees as well as his character, the apprentice could be "entered" in the lodge. The average period of time it took apprentices to be "entered" was four years after they had begun to serve their masters. Yet there are some cases on record in which the apprentice was "entered" at the same time he was "booked", i.e., at the very beginning of his apprenticeship to a master. Kinship to the master or the affluence of the apprentice's parents or guarantors probably helped to speed up the process in some cases.
When an apprentice had completed his indenture, he was a journeyman, free to travel from employer to employer, seeking work at regular wages, which were usually fixed by law at a daily or weekly rate. He could stay on with the master of his apprenticeship, or he could seek employment with another. He could "free lance" his skills. He could take on an apprentice himself; this was a useful source of extra income. He could even hire out his apprentice to others, when his own affairs were slack. He could contract for small jobs, the cost of which had an upper limit prescribed by the municipal authorities. He was sufficiently trained and skillful to "start life on his own". A journeyman could earn a comfortable living.
The ultimate goal of all apprentices was to become a burgess, a free citizen of the town. To practice his trade with the widest latitude and freedom, a craftsman had to become a burgess, a full-fledged citizen with certain property rights and the franchise. He had to have "the freedom of the city". It was the highest station in life to which the ordinary man could aspire.
Generally speaking, an operative mason had to be a Fellow of the Craft if he hoped to achieve the status of burgess. This was especially true in the smaller towns and in the country, where the Lodge was the highest authority in regulating workmen. In the cities, the Council had overriding authority; and it usually insisted that workmen could not be ranked (or make contracts) as Masters, until they had "taken the freedom of the city". This freedom entailed certain duties and responsibilities; but it also gave the freeman some educational advantages for his children, some "social security" benefits for his family, priority in housing, and the right to practice his trade as a Master Workman.
Lodges apparently considered a workman "free" only after he had had approximately three years' experience as a journeyman, and after he had "passed to Fellow of the Craft" in a simple ceremony, of which the payment of prescribed fees seems to have been the most important element.
"Passing F.C." was not a ritualistic experience; it was the attainment of a certain grade or status in the classification of workmen in a trade organization. While there undoubtedly was some ceremony connected with the event, it should be remembered that "entered apprentices" were full members of a lodge, that they had received all the instructions pertaining to the noble craft, as well as most of its operative secrets, at the time of their initiation. A simpler, shorter version of the lecture on the seven liberal arts and sciences, which was part of the old charges and regulations, was read to apprentices at the time they were "entered".
The Schaw Statutes of 1598 attempted to enforce a seven years' period of journeymanship before an apprentice could be "passed a Fellow of the Craft"; but old lodge records indicate that the idea was largely a hope or a dream, since practically no apprentices had to wait that long to become Fellows of the Craft. The "accommodation" of the law to suit men's practical needs and ambitions has been arranged in every generation.
An apprentice, for practical purposes, was free to work wherever he chose as soon as he had completed his apprenticeship, and he was technically "free" the day he completed the required period of his journeymanship. Since "the freedom of the city" could be granted to a "free" apprentice as well as to a Fellow of the Craft, it depended on the degree of understanding and agreement between the Council and the guilds (or Lodges) whether only Fellows of the Craft received the freedom. Where such Fellowship was not insisted on, a worker could bypass the rank of Fellowcraft on his way to becoming a burgess.
In Edinburgh around 1600 "Freemen Masters" were the actual full members and managers of the Lodges. Fellows of the Craft were fully trained masons, potential Masters. They could take on apprentices, do limited "jobbing" on their own account, but they could not work as Masters until they had been made burgesses. They needed no additional qualifications to become Masters, except to pay the required fees and to execute "an essay", a master's piece.
No record of any ceremony for making a Fellow of the Craft a Master has ever come to light. When a workman was "passed F.C."., nothing more seems to have been recorded of him until he was made a burgess. Then, without any announcement, minute, or ceremony of any kind, he is to be found signing the Lodge minutes as a "Freeman Master".
Apprentices could speed up the process of becoming "free" by another, a modern sounding technique, - by marrying the boss' daughter. An "un-freeman" could acquire his "freedom" at the cheapest rate and in the shortest period of time by marrying a burgess' daughter. If his master was a burgess and the apprentice did this at the end of his indenture, he was excused from the extra three years of service as a journeyman. From the evidence revealed by old lodge records, it appears that many of them did. It was a practical arrangement to insure the future security of the females in a Master's family.
Many other journeymen, however, failed to "pass the Fellow of the Craft". We can only guess at their reasons. Some lacked ambition and were content to continue a journeyman's existence as a hired hand or as a small employer of one or two apprentices. Some may have multiplied their family needs and obligations so rapidly that they were never able to lay aside the sums required for membership as Fellows of the Lodge. Lacking relatives of means to help them pay the necessary fees for Fellowship and Freedom, they remained in the ranks of the unsung common man, who may not always "lead a life of quiet desperation", but who learns to adapt his life to calm frustration.
Every system of society tends to harden into a mold of custom and tradition which changes far too slowly in some of its minor practices to suit the changing conditions of the life of which it is composed. When it became more and more difficult for operative craftsmen to "get to the top" in the exercise of the builders' arts, there was less and less urgency for journeymen masons to undertake the responsibilities and the financial obligations of "passing Fellowcraft".
Toward the close of the era of operative Masonry, we discover a problem created by this phenomenon, the solution of which helped to hasten the transformation. of Craft Masonry into Speculative Freemasonry.
In 1681 Mary's Chapel Lodge in Edinburgh issued an edict against "entered Apprentices" who neglected to be passed to Fellowcraft. It ordered that no master was to employ any apprentices who remained "unpassed" for more than, two years after their discharge from their indentures. A fine of twenty shillings a day was to be imposed on any master who employed them.
In this event we see the transformation of a "closed shop" association of highly skilled craftsmen into a broader trade association, in which the number of members in the Lodge and the income to be derived from their fees were more important than the proven skills and needs of specialized craftsmen.
A year later, 1682, the same Lodge legislated directly against "unpassed" apprentices, by levying a fine of twelve shillings a year upon every such member. To make the legislation more palatable, it was announced that the fines would be used to relieve the poor and the needy. It was not long before the' claims upon such funds for relief became excessive, with the result that quarrels and contentions broke out in the Lodge.
By the time the eighteenth century was well under way, the Lodge was solving this difficulty by enrolling in its membership "non-operatives", who paid 1 pound, 1 s (Sterling), "for the use of the poor". The Lodge had practically abandoned its original function of trade control; it was now virtually a social and benevolent society. And it was just about this time that Speculative Freemasonry began its history with the founding of the first Grand Lodge in London in 1717.
In spite of the differences between the operative masons' grade of Fellow of the Craft and the present Fellowcraft degree, there is a thread that runs from the ancient to the modern. It is the great theme of enlightened manhood. The symbolic ritual stresses the necessity of the cultivation of the intellect and the acquisition of habits of industry, both essential to the man who in the prime of life would be a Master in the building of a spiritual Temple of Brotherhood.
The operative Fellow of the Craft was in the full vigor of physical manhood. Because of the nature of the work involved in cutting and handling stone, the masons' guilds generally required beginning apprentices to be somewhat older than was the case in other trades. Some Lodges tried to enforce a minimum age of eighteen, although records indicate that some apprentices were younger. Nevertheless, an operative mason, after completing his seven years' apprenticeship and the usual period of service as a journeyman, was a man in his late twenties. In an era when the average life expectancy was somewhere in the early forties, such a man was well into the period of middle life, when his skills should be mature and his objectives well defined. Whatever executive ability he needed to become a "freeman Master" must have been demonstrated by the time he became a Fellow of the Craft. Habits of industry and the acquisition of knowledge were among the important qualities in the development of that ability.
In the modern Fellowcraft degree the underlying idea of the Middle Chamber Lecture is the development of manhood through useful knowledge and constructive work. The scientific facts and the theories of art contained in the various sections of that discourse are not its vital elements. They are too elementary and too generalized to be of practical use in any trade or profession today. It is reverence for knowledge and its moral usefulness which is illustrated for the speculative Fellowcraft.
The ritual stresses the need for studying and for learning throughout the period of manhood. It illuminates the idea that a Fellowcraft must search for knowledge about the liberalizing ideas of morality and brotherly love. If he would truly become a Master engaged in building "a house not made with hands", he must know the means of achieving universal tolerance and understanding.
The ritual of the Fellowcraft degree admittedly difficult to learn and to present with the same dramatic appeal that is inherent in the other two degrees. But, because the ennobling fascination of the beautiful ceremonies of Freemasonry can capture the hearts and minds of men in every generation (and in every degree), it is important that symbolic Craftsmen learn and interpret as meaningfully as possible the ritual of this degree.
A Fellow of the Craft should feel that he has achieved a distinguished rank and privilege when he has completed his journey through King Solomon's Temple. A Fellow of the Craft should understand that he has fulfilled symbolically a journeyman's years of learning and of labor in the arts of Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth.
The subject calls for an appraisal of the place of the Ritual in the program of education, and implies that its future is, in some measure at least, dependent upon its growth and development, past and present. The inference, therefore, is that we begin at the beginning, and that while the intent is to think in terms of the speculative craft, we cannot detach ourselves from antiquity. We must necessarily begin with the operative guild which gave us birth.
Masonic ritual, in the broadest sense, incorporates any and all ceremonies or rites from the opening of the lodge to its closing, including the conferring of degrees. To trace the beginning in either particular would be next to impossible, and it is not our intent to DWELL in the past. We can be reasonably certain, however, that the first speculative lodges inherited their modes and customs from the operative guilds and thus began their existence with a ritual sufficient for their needs - a ritual which probably provided for a ceremony of opening and closing and the administering of an oath of allegiance. This is understandable in view of the fact that mediaeval lodges opened with prayer, after which each workman had his daily labor assigned him and received the necessary instruction to complete the work in detail. We further learn that in or near that same period, an investiture with Masonic secrets, the building secrets, that is, was, perhaps, originally conferred in one of the abbey rooms near which the Cathedral, or other sacred edifice was being erected, until the superstructure had so far advanced as to cover the church crypt, and offered a safe asylum for the craft to congregate in, for the purpose of working the rites appurtenant to the several Masonic degrees. With the passing of time, the working tools of the operative craft became the symbols of the speculative, and in order that they might be understood and their significance properly related to the living of a life acceptable to God and in a more perfect relationship with one another, it became necessary to devise a means of instruction which gave rise to ritualistic form. As speculative Masonry grew and spread to other parts of the old world and eventually to America, its ritual became further enriched with allegory and symbols to the point where it became an art in itself, but never losing its original purpose and intent-that of imparting knowledge to the initiate.
There have been times in the history of the craft, however, when ritualism became the whole aim and end of Freemasonry. The effects of war, which made its mark upon society and life in general found no exception in the Masonic Fraternity. Lodges became likened to "6 mills" in turning out Masons (or numbers), and the ritual suffered as a result, due partially to haste, and partly to indifference and ineffectiveness on the part of undedicated officers. Then, too, in America, there has been a tendency to lengthen the ritual to accommodate the so-called ritualistic orators, and a further tendency to exploit the ritual, for the amusement of the brethren at the sacrifice of the more important task of imparting knowledge.
In more recent years, through various programs of candidate instruction, with the ritual as the foundation and basis of that instruction, there has been a growing tendency to restore the ritual to its proper place in the total program of Masonic education. Newly-raised Masons today have at their disposal a greater understanding and appreciation of the historically and life-molding significance of the ritual, and the emphasis in rendition is gradually changing from the 'I' dotter and the "T' crosser to the more meaningful rendition which causes men to think, to feel, and to act.
This is not to condemn good ritualism. The preservation of ritual in its purest form is most important and imperative. Good ritualism is an honor; poor ritualism is always pernicious. Good ritualism is worth the best efforts and highest aspirations of any Master; poor ritualism is unworthy of any Master. Good ritualism is one of the great assets of a lodge and a potent advertising medium; poor ritualism is an efficient hypnotic.
However, our subject does not concern itself with ritualistic rendition, but rather the place of the ritual in an educational program. We have already indicated the tendency on the part of many Grand Jurisdictions to initiate a program of candidate instruction, and it is our opinion that such instruction cannot divorce itself from the ritual as the basis and foundation of that instruction. As for its place in the future, it is our feeling that there are unexplored resources in the symbolism and allegory of our ritual commensurate to, and of about equal magnitude with the space age in which we live, resources which will help mankind to better understand his place in the world as a creature of one Almighty Parent, and endowed with powers beyond his most imaginative dreams. If we are to make men, through our ritualistic teachings, better able to deal with the problems of life in their relations toward the Supreme Architect of the Universe and their fellow man which is our major task in the building of spiritual temples, then we must utilize the resources at hand.
To say that we have exhausted this field would be preposterous and indicative of Masonic ignorance, because, as any one of you sufficiently versed in Masonry very well know, there is no end to the great well of information which lies buried in the antiquity of our Order. The potential in space is limitless-so also is the potential in Masonic research.
Some of these are so obvious that we hesitate to call them to your attention. WHY CAME YOU HERE? To seek Good that makes us Men, and the love that makes us Brothers. WHAT CAME YOU HERE TO DO? To discover myself, and how to rule and use the strange powers within my nature, that the Rough Ashlar of Youth might be wrought into the Perfect Ashlar of Manhood. WHAT DO YOU MOST DESIRE? To walk in the light, to know the Truth, to live in the glory of an illumined world, to ascend the Winding Stair of knowledge, to enter the Court of the Temple of Imagery where the symbols of God hallow our mortal life. BY WHAT RIGHT OR BENEFIT? By the Right of a man to know the meaning of life, so brief at its longest, so broken at its best; and by the benefit of a need too deep for tears. WORDS? Yes. But meaningful words that can be read into our symbolism and allegory.
And what of the even more obvious teachings left unexplored in our Ritual? The search for the Lost Word - the Rite of Destitution - The Altar - The Great Lights, and the Lesser Lights - the letter "G" - the Hiramic Legend. We could go on and on, illustrating where we have but scratched the surface in our program of education. But, behind, before and underneath it all lies the ritual, so rich and abundant in life-building, and soul-building resources as to defy the most searching and scholarly mind.
What of the place of the ritual in any program of education? It is, as always, past, present and future, the foundation stone upon which we not only MUST build, but through the grace of an Omnipotent, Omniscient, and Omnipresent God, we are so privileged as men and as Masons.
R. W. Bro. Aubrey L. Burbank
Seventh Annual Norhteast Conference on Masonic Education & Libraries 1962
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