The Masonic Monthly 1864
AT the summit of Ancient Free and Accepted Masonry stands the third, or Master Mason's Degree.
There is no higher degree, legitimately so called. - Whatever other degrees, styled Masonic, the ingenuity of man may have invented, they can lay no claim to superiority over the third or Master Mason's Degree conferred in the Blue Lodge. None of them can compare with it for antiquity or universality. The numerous additions which have been made to the body of Freemasonry on this continent and in some European countries, are comparatively modern institutions, and are only Masonic by virtue of their association with and foundation on the Master Mason's Lodge.
They are merely so many wheels within a wheel; are simply the keys which give admission from one association of Master Masons into other and interior. associations of Master Masons.
Whatever of ancient Masonry may be met with in the Chapter, there is abundant evidence that it has been sep- arated, perhaps unwisely, from symbolic Masonry. The Encampments of the Knightly Degrees, the societies working under the Scottish Rite, the Rite of Mizraim, of Memphis, or by whatever other name these degree systems may be known, add nothing to Freemasonry pure and simple. They give it no direct support. They grow up along side of the Masonic Institution, deriving nourishment from it, are essentially parasitical, and too frequently, the undue importance they have assumed, and the dissensions they have created and fostered have well nigh sapped the life from large branches of the parent stem.
They may contain much to please the fancy, or supply the reasonable want of many minds, much which maybe adapted to certain localities or to the cherished notions or opinions of certain classes of men embraced within the folds of the Masonic Fraternity, but not one of these systems is calculated to attain to that universality to which Freemasonry proper aspires. They are in no particular adapted to the whole, but only to portions of the great human family, and are incapable themselves of fulfilling the entire mission of Masonry on earth. In fact they make no pretense of possessing that distinctive attribute of Freemasonry - universality.
Such Masons as wish to see the religious element more distinctly displayed than in the symbolic lodges find their desire gratified in the Royal Arch system.
Those who are pleased with the semi-military constitution, and chivalric features of the Encampment will find all they seek in the Orders of Masonic Knighthood. Such again as desire to investigate the Apocrypha of Ancient Accepted Masonry, and the distinctions of high degrees may realize their aspir- ations in the Lodge of Perfection and the Consistory. While those who have Coptic predilections, may find mystery sufficient in the mystic chambers where the Memphisian rites are practised. - Still the only conclusion to which the thoughtful Freemason can arrive is, that in the foremost rank of true Freemasonry stands the third, or Master Mason's Degree, and that all which is essential in the system may be found within the Blue Lodge.
Formerly lodges consisted entirely of Masons of the second, or Fellow Craft's degree. In process of time the Apprentice's degree was introduced as probationary for applicants for fellowship in the Order, and preparatory therefor. The pillars of Wisdom and Strength being thus already represented; the degree of Master Mason, representing the pillar of Beauty, and combining in itself the marks of Wisdom and Strength, was introduced to complete the structure. As the Entered Apprentice represents youth, and the Fellow Craft manhood, so the Master Mason is representative of age, with its ripened experience and mellowness. The third degree also symbolizes Hiram Abiff, "the widow's son," the Architect and beautifyer of the Temple, who fills so important a space in the legend of Masonry; and also the third or principal round of the theological ladder, Faith, Hope and Charity - "but the greatest of these is Charity, for Faith may be lost in sight, Hope ends in fruition, but Charity extends beyond the grave, to the boundless realms of eternity."
The Master Mason's degree is the cap-stone of our system, and the completion of the Royal Arch. Hence the implement of our Craft more particularly adopted as a jewel of the third degree, is the Trowel, which is used by "operative Masons to spread the cement which unites the building into one common mass; but we, as Free and Accepted Masons, are taught to use it for the more noble and glorious purpose of spreading the cement of brotherly love and affection - that cement which unites us into one sacred band, or society of friends and brothers, among whom no contention should ever exist, save that noble contention, or rather emulation, of who best can work and best agree."
In the Entered Apprentice's degree the foundation of a Masonic life is laid in morality; in the degree of Fellow Craft the system is made conformable to the teachings and influences of speculative science; while in the blaster Mason's degree, the lessons of morality and science are combined in a perfected system, which is nearly akin to, if not religion itself.
There is Freedom among the Apprentices, Equality among the Craft, and Fraternity among Master Masons, - Fraternity which will yet prove the great healer of the many ills to which Humanity is heir. As Master Masons let us therefore stand erect, fully conscious of the high dignity of our calling, and impressed with the lofty and generous mission of Freemasonry, let us take up the various implements of our Craft and faithfully ply our vocation.
The prosperity of Masonry as a means of strengthening our religion and propagating true brotherly love, is one of the dearest wishes of my heart, which, I trust, will be gratified by the help of the Grand Architect of the Universe. CHRISTIAN, KING OF DENMARK.