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[W. Bro.Byron E.Hams is an eminent Masonic Scholar
and a prolific writer. He has in this article explained certain aspects of
the symbolism of the various degrees. His attainments in Masonry makes him
a competent scholar to enlighten us. Despite, the great Masonic knowledge
he possess, he always describes himself as
“ A Lifetime Apprentice”. His article, “ Why a Lifetime
Apprentice”, will be posted shortly. We are thankful to him for
permitting us to post his articles in this website. Please read on . . .]
Moving Beyond The Square
In the 1st Degree you are introduced to the Square and Compass with both points
of the Compass below the Square.
You were received on the point of a Compass pressing your naked left breast,
which was to teach you, as it is a torture to your flesh, so should the
recollection of it ever be to your mind and conscience. You were informed that
it was this way, because you were still in darkness with respect to Masonry.
In the 1st Degree you were given 2 working tools, the twenty
four inch gauge and the common gavel. You were instructed to make use of
the twenty four inch gauge by dividing your time into three equal parts, whereby
you have a portion for the service of God and the relief of a distressed worthy
brother, a portion for your usual avocation and a portion for refreshment and
sleep. The common gavel is an instrument made used of for the more noble and
glorious purpose of divesting our minds and consciences of all the vices and
superfluities of life, thereby fitting us, as living stones, for that spiritual
building, that house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
In the 2 nd Degree. you behold the Square and Compass with one point above the
You were received on the angle of Square, which was to teach you, that the
square of virtue should be the rule and guide of your conscience in all future
transactions with Mankind. You were informed, that it was this way,
because you have received light in Masonry by points.
In the 2nd Degree, you were given the working tools, the plumb, the square, and
the level. The plumb admonishes us to walk uprightly in our several
stations before God and Mankind. The square to always square our actions by the
Square of Virtue in all our dealing with
Mankind. The level to always remind us that we are traveling upon
the Level of Time to that “undiscovered country from which no traveler
In the 3rd Degree, you behold the Square and
Compass with both points
above the Square. You were received on both points of the Compass, extending
from your naked left to your naked right breast, which is to teach you, that as
the vital parts of man are contained within the breast, so the most excellent
tenets of our institution are contained between the points of the compasses,
which are Friendship, Morality and Brotherly Love. You were informed, that it
was this way, because you perceived more than you had before and also to teach
you to never lose sight of those truly Masonic virtues, which are Friendship,
Morality, and Brotherly Love.
I will not go into all that you should have received in the 3rd Degree, because
if you received it then you already have it and if you did not receive it, I can
not give it to you for only of your own free will and accord can you get it.
But I will give you the end of the Charge to the Lodge, which is as
“ Then, by the benefit of the
pass – a pure and blameless life – with a firm reliance on Divine
Providence, shall we gain ready admission into that Celestial Lodge above, where
the Supreme Grand Warden forever presides – forever reigns. When, place
at his right hand, he will be pleased to pronounce us just and upright Masons,
then shall we be fitted as living stones for that spiritual temple, ‘that
house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens’, where no discordant
voice shall be heard, but all the soul shall experience shall be perfect bliss
and all it shall express shall be perfect praise and love divine shall ennoble
every heart and hallelujahs exalted employ every tongue.”
Keeping in mind that Masonry is a beautiful system of morality veiled in
allegory and illustrated by symbols, I realized the following:
1. The first 3 degrees gave me all I needed to
understand the system of morality in its symbols and allegories towards mankind.
2. The first 3 degrees made me aware of the veils
between God and me, but it did not give me what
I needed to get past those veils.
3. The square and compass were not the all in Masonry,
but just the all in all of the first 3 degrees of Masonry.
4. The first 3 degrees of Masonry deal with the
material world and to get to that house not made with hands you will have to
travel beyond the
world of the square and compass to the spiritual world of what comes next.
In the 4th Degree on your first admission into the Lodge, you are received upon
the edge of an engraver’s chisel and under the pressure of a mallet, which is
to teach you that the moral precepts of this degree should make a deep and lasting impression upon your future
life and conduct.
Here if all goes in order as in the preceding degrees, then would not the chisel
and mallet be placed on the Bible instead of the square and Compass?
You are given a keystone to present as your work. This work is heaved over among
the rubbish and should teach you to never let peculiar form and beauty to cause
you to violate a positive command. Next you are taken to receive your
wages, where you are taken as an imposter, this is to teach you to never claim
as your own the property of another.
This degree is founded upon a certain keystone wrought by our Grand Master Hiram
Abif. Its color was white and symbolically alludes to a passage of
“To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the
hidden manna, and will give
him a white stone,
and in the stone a new name written, which
man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.”
The chisel morally demonstrates the advantage of discipline and education.
The mind, like the diamond in its original state is rude and unpolished,
but as the effect of the chisel on the external coat soon presents to view the
latent beauties of the diamond, so education discovers the latent virtues of the
mind and draws them forth to range the large field of matter and space, to
display the summit of human knowledge, our duty to God and to man.
The mallet morally teaches to correct irregularities and to reduce man to a
proper level so that, by quiet deportment, he may, in the school of discipline,
learn to be content. What the mallet is to the workmen, enlightened reason
is to the passions; it curbs ambition, depresses envy, moderates anger and
encourages good dispositions, whence arises among good Freemasons that comely
order, “Which nothing earthly gives or can destroy, the soul’s calm sunshine
the heart-felt joy”.
The 5th Degree, which, is really part of the 3rd Degree and is only in the Royal
Arch to fill in a gap that could not be filled otherwise, so I will skip over
In the 6th Degree you are received on your first admission into the Lodge upon
the keystone. The keystone completed the Royal Arch of the Temple and the stone
which the builders rejected, became the head of the corner.
Here the keystone represents the spiritual side of yourself, that side of you that you heaved into the rubbish
pile, when you first found it, because you did not understand it as being an
important part of you. Now you understand that this spiritual side of you it the
most important part of you there is and that it is this part of you that brings
you in direct contact with God.
For the reasons stated above, I believe that the keystone
should be on the Bible in this degree. The
keystone represents your spiritual self and Bible representing God and therefore
bringing both into closer contact with each other.
You will also note that you were not given any working tools in this degree.
For there are no working tools that can bring you closer to God. Only
through your spiritual self and of your own free will and accord can you become
one with God.
In the 7th Degree on your first admission into a Chapter you were received under
a living arch, to teach you that the principal secrets of this Degree can be
communicated only under a living arch and also to teach you a lesson in
humility, for he that humbles himself shall be exalted.
Here I believe that the living arch represents Mankind. We as Royal Arch
Masons should live humble lives with our fellow man. We should live our lives as
examples of how the Children of God should live in such a way that will inspire
others to follow our examples. We are not to put ourselves above others,
so that they will look to us, but we are to let our light shine so that others
can see the path to God.
So I believe that the arch should be on the Bible with the arch representing
God’s Children and their oneness with Him.
The Rituals are only a starting point, within their pages are hidden the keys to
the Bible, but only of your own free will accord, will you ever find the keys
and the doors that they open.
I have not presented this for you to change what you put on the Altar, because
it matters not what you put on the Alter. What does matter is what you put
in your heart and that is what I care about. My only hope is that one or
more of you will take this as what it is, a simple paper that states, that there
is more than just what meets the eye, even in the Ritual.
The Rituals like everything in Masonry is full of
veils so that only “those that seek shall find”, “those that ask shall be
answered”, and “only those that knock shall receive”.
I will leave you with the following from the Holy Bible:
” Therefore speak I to them in parables: because
they seeing see not and hearing they hear not,
do they understand.
And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias,
which saith, by hearing ye
shall hear and shall
not understand and seeing ye
shall see, and shall
For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and
their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes
they have closed; let at any time they should
with their eyes and hear with their ears,
and should understand with their heart, and
should be converted, and I should heal them. (Matthew 13: 13-15)
Yesterday I was, that I was
Today I am , that I am
Tomorrow I will be, what God makes me
Yours in Love, Peace, and Unity,
Byron E. Hams
A Lifetime Apprentice