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Masonic essays (1998)


To appreciate what may be called the traditional degrees, it is first necessary to understand what is meant by freemasonry. The earliest known recorded use of the word "freemason" dates from 1376, when it implied an operative mason of a superior class, apparently the Master Mason in charge of a building operation, or the Master Builder. Many early masonic writers could not accept that the medieval Freemason, or Master Mason, was a man of superior knowledge and skill, equally well versed in religious matters, the graphic arts, sculpture and geometry as he was in the manual aspects of his trade. Writers as eminent as A.E.Waite could not imagine how "horny handed labourers" could have developed the symbolism and philosophy that has been incorporated into modern speculative freemasonry. As a possible explanation, R.F.Gould proposed that these "operatives" accepted "gentlemen" into their ranks and that they transformed the operative craft into a speculative art, but he could offer no logical reason for such an occurrence, which in any event would have been socially unacceptable in those days.

Those writers seemed unaware that freemasonry was not restricted to the quarrying, shaping and setting of stones, but that it included the geometry and structural design of the building and also the multitude of associated trades such as the sculpture, stained glass windows and all decorative work. These freemasons had inherited and continually developed the ideas, teachings and organisation that had long since crystalised as a Fraternity. They had a multiplicity of emblems, an elaborate system of symbolism and many rites and ceremonies, which they continued to use long after the decline of cathedral building. The speculative art had developed concurrently with and had become an integral part of operative practice. Manual dexterity was achieved by practical "hands on" training, while the accompanying theory was imparted by demonstration and catechism, including participation in appropriate dramatic presentations to illustrate the use of the more sophisticated implements in setting out and controlling the work.

Should there be any doubt as to the intelligence, technical capacity and practical capabilities of the medieval Master Masons, it would be instantly dispelled by a study of the design and construction of the world famous Chartres Cathedral, which is considered to be the most authentic surviving example of the spirit of the most spiritual of all periods in European history. In 1020 a cathedral, almost as large as the present one, replaced a smaller church on the site. In the 1130s it was extended at the western end by adding two bays, a vestibule and two towers framing the Royal Portal and its renowned sculptures. All except the western end and the crypt were destroyed by a dreadful fire in 1194. Reconstruction was commenced almost immediately, continuing unabated until virtual completion during the 1230s, while more than a dozen other cathedrals were also under construction in the vicinity.

Years earlier, the Council of Nicea had ruled that "the arrangement belongs to the clergy and the execution to the artist". Accordingly, the Chapter would have stated its requirements as to the form of the cathedral, the size of the choir and the arrangement of the chapels, transepts and other features. During construction some innovations almost certainly would have been requested. However, although the church's involvement in the detailing and structural problems would have been minimal, no architect was engaged to design and supervise the work, only a permanent staff of clergy being provided to check that requirements were being met and to provide the necessary funds. Nine different Master Masons were engaged on the work cyclically throughout the construction period, each being entirely responsible for the geometry, design and construction of his sections of the work. In all there were more than thirty successive contracts or "campaigns" to complete the cathedral. The first Master Mason who prepared the original design, set out the building and constructed the foundations, was only on site for less than a year. Each of the nine contractors was engaged more than once, but the first and some others were engaged several times. Each successive builder made some modifications, but without altering the work already completed. The completion of such a complicated and beautiful structure, so successfully and under such difficult conditions, proves beyond doubt the capacity and integrity of the medieval freemasons.


The remarkable structural feats of the medieval freemasons can be seen and appreciated, but their work and ceremonials within their lodges is not so immediately evident. To achieve his objectives on successive sites year after year, the Master Mason not only had to be talented himself, but also required a talented, loyal and dedicated team that could be relied upon to follow him in the search for and prosecution of the work. His team in fact was a family, intensely proud of its skills and traditions, but jealous of its operating methods and trade secrets. Skill, morality and fidelity were essential ingredients for success, but constant training was necessary in all of these aspects. The Master Mason was responsible for all of this training, which was a primary activity of his lodge. Effectively his apprentices were his sons for seven years and upwards, but usually for a lifetime. All members of the Fraternity were brothers in the truest sense.

Instruction was required and provided in three ways. The necessary manual instruction was carried out either in the stone yard or on the construction site, according to the type of work. The theoretical instruction was usually provided within the lodge, as was all moral instruction, for which purpose lodges were convened each Saturday at midday. Prior to their acceptance into the Fraternity, all those seeking apprenticeship were required to stand at the entrance to the stone yard or work place for two weeks as the men were going to and coming from work, so that the members could appraise their suitability and raise any valid objections. If no objections were raised, the applicant was balloted for by a show of hands in open lodge. If so accepted he was also examined to ascertain his wholeness and soundness of body and limb, to ensure that he was physically capable of carrying out the arduous tasks that would be required of him.

To impress upon the candidate that purity of body and mind were to be essential components of his life within the Fraternity, he was then required to bathe seven times. After bathing he was prepared in a white cloak, "neither naked nor clad", was blindfolded and conducted into the lodge under restraint by four of the members. He was then required to kneel with his knees bare on a rough ashlar stone and take an obligation of fidelity, on the completion of which he entered into his bond of indentureship for at least seven years. When his training was complete, the Indentured Apprentice was formally released from his bond, was required to take another obligation as a Fellow of the Craft and was entrusted with new modes of recognition as a fully fledged craftsman. These initial stages in the life of an operative mason are the basis of the first two degrees in modern speculative lodges, though there are differences in detail of which some will be mentioned later. As a tradesman the Fellow of the Craft was required to gain diversified experience progressively over many years, during which his training continued in specialised areas of the work.

At each new level of responsibility the craftsman would be tested and if accepted would be required to take another obligation. He would then be entrusted with the modes of recognition pertaining to his new station, to enable him to prove his level of competence when required. After many years the craftsman might become a Superintendent of Work, responsible for all of the work in a stone yard, or on a construction site. When obligated and appointed, the Superintendent was reminded that he must have and always maintain a good knowledge of the work of all associated Guilds, but especially the carpenters, iron workers, bronze founders, white smiths and gold smiths, as well knowing all materials used in the work, the required standards of workmanship, the quality of the work done, the time required and the cost. Eventually a very experienced Superintendent might assemble a gang and become a Master Mason in his own right, frequently starting as a subcontractor to his previous Master. In this way freemasonry expanded to meet therequirements of the times. Some of these progressive steps also are reflected in the degrees of modern symbolic craft masonry.


The medieval lodges operated during the centuries of intense religious fervour, usually working closely with or under the surveillance of a religious establishment. It was an era of great pageantry, when the church rituals became fully developed and Passion Plays were a feature of religious life. During this period, each branch of knowledge was considered to be a secret, which its possessors must not communicate to anyone outside their own class or fraternity. Every art, science and trade was called a "mystery" and was treated accordingly. Indeed, concealment was often practised for the love of concealment. It was inevitable that freemasonry would enhance its long established methods of symbolic instruction by incorporating more drama and ritual in its ceremonials, similar to those of its religious counterparts. These ritualistic dramas developed along three distinct lines. The oldest theme probably is that referring to early events recorded in the Book of Genesis. The best known theme, which is the basis of most modern symbolic degrees, relates to the temples at Jerusalem. The third theme is different in character, relating to the early Christian era.

The Genesis theme is concerned with Noah and the flood; Lamech and his four children, who are credited with the origin of civilised society; the tower of Babel; and Nimrod, the first great builder mentioned in the Bible and the traditional founder of operative masonry. The Genesis theme is the basis of the first part of the "traditional history" of the operative free masons, leading into the better known part that relates to the construction of King Solomon's temple at Jerusalem. The moral presented in the Genesis theme is that divine judgment is inevitable, but that a reconciliation is available to those who repent, who will be preserved and with whom a new covenant will be entered into. The only symbolic degree relating to this theme is the Royal Ark Mariner, in respect of which the installation degree is significant. Several aspects also are included in some degrees of the Ancient and Accepted Rite.

The best known theme, which also has a key role in operative masonry, is based on the construction of King Solomon's Temple at Jerusalem, which was completed about 950 BC; its destruction by Nebuchadrezzar in 587 BC and the captivity and exile of the Jews to Babylon; their release from captivity in 538 BC under the Decree of Cyrus, the King of Persia who had captured Babylon; and the rebuilding of the temple at Jerusalem under Zerubbabel, completed in 515EBC. The degrees relating to this theme are usually called "Solomonic" and are represented in symbolic Craft masonry, Mark masonry, Royal Arch masonry, Cryptic Rite masonry and also the Allied Masonic Degrees, as well as in the Ancient and Accepted Rite. In addition to its historical content and the symbolism relating to the working tools of an operative mason and the construction of the temple, this theme also provides an avenue for the "search within", which includes the search for and discovery of the "Lost Word".

It has been suggested that the New Testament theme may have arisen as a means to distinguish operative craftsmen from the then "new fangled" speculatives during the 1700s. There is no doubt that the modes of recognition given in the degrees relating to this theme were of great importance to operative masons travelling in search of work, but the content of the degrees suggests an earlier origin and that recognition was not their primary purpose. In particular, the morals presented teach fortitude, humility and universal equality. The New Testament theme is represented in two of the Allied degrees. St Lawrence the Martyr commemorates the martyrdom of the Saint in Rome in the middle of the third century AD, when he displayed humility with extreme fortitude. The Knights of Constantinople refers to an event during the reign of Constantine the Great in the fourth century AD, when the Emperor curbed the pride and arrogance of the nobility and rewarded the common people, his loyal artisans and labourers in Constantinople.


The traditional degrees of speculative freemasonry are all those that were derived from earlier operative practice, including those from the transitional period in the 1600s and 1700s. They include the three degrees already mentioned, as well as several others that will also be discussed. Of the others the first two of the modern degrees, which are based on the induction of Indentured Apprentices and the making of Fellows of the Craft in medieval lodges, are the foundation of modern speculative freemasonry, also known as symbolic Craft masonry. They will now be discussed in more detail. It will be evident from earlier comments, that the ceremonials of these two symbolic degrees closely resemble those of their operative precedents. Moreover, there also are many similarities in the working tools and modes of recognition, although there are some significant differences. For example, some of the operative signs have been omitted and the words have been changed, even though the ancient penalties are substantially the same. It is interesting to note that the new words, which have no place in the old operative rituals, reflect the old emblematical signs not used in the Craft, which suggests that their choice was not a mere coincidence.

Some masonic authors have advanced the opinion that the third degree of symbolic Craft masonry was "manufactured" to fill an apparent gap, that of Master Mason. As we have already seen, the fully qualified and experienced craftsmen were masters of the craft in the true sense, while the Master Mason was the manager ot proprietor of a workforce operating as a lodge within the Fraternity. The Master Mason very often was a contractor, who engaged and paid the craftsmen and labourers he required to carry out the work under the terms of his contract with the client. In its present form the degree of Master Mason includes a significant part of the old craftsman's ritual now referred to as the "five points of fellowship", which then formed a discrete and very relevant component of the Fellow's ritual. With some constructive imagination, this was grafted onto an ancient operative drama that was enacted during annual festivals, when a new appointee was invested as one of the three Grand Master Masons to rule over the Fraternity. The drama could be attended by all members of the Fraternity, because it highlighted the fortitude and fidelity of the principal architect without revealing the secrets that had been entrusted to him.

Of the other traditional degrees, that of Mark Master Mason is very important because the principles it embodies were of great importance to the operative masons. This degree not only emphasises the skill and precision required of a craftsman, but also highlights the care that must be exercised by overseers when inspecting the work, because the responsibility for acceptance or rejection is entirely theirs and they will bear the blame for any error. In the operative context the principles enunciated in the Mark degree are ancient indeed, but did not only relate to the modern "keystone" ceremony. Speculatives in the early 1700s were working at least seven degrees that included the word Mark, of which some were intimately associated with the Ark which has already been mentioned. In its original form as used in symbolic Craft lodges, the Mark degree comprised two distinct sections, namely Mark Man for the Fellowcraft and Mark Master for the Master Mason. In the fullness of time they were consolidated into the present ceremony based on the "keystone". The operative ceremonies, which included both the preparation of the stones and their erection in the building, were covered in the ceremonials of two degrees. Again there are some close similarities that clearly reflect the antecedents of the symbolic Craft degree, but there are some significant differences.

These four degrees complete the "work oriented" components of the old operative ceremonials, laying the foundation for the esoteric theme which is the ultimate reason for all masonic ritual, the search for light and knowledge and the allegorical discovery of the "Lost Word", which leads to the ultimate truth. The esoteric theme is comprised in several degrees under the various masonic orders previously mentioned, but no order includes all of these degrees. In any particular masonic order, the degrees may not be arranged in their correct chronological sequence, nor is there any coherent arrangement between the orders. There also are differences in detail between some equivalent degrees that are worked in different masonic orders, though their themes are substantially the same. Having in mind the lack of communication in those days, the similarities are more remarkable than the differences.


Although at first sight this group of degrees appears to represent a random collection of unrelated incidents, a coherent narrative is achieved by arranging them in their correct sequence. The following is the complete series of "Solomonic" degrees currently worked under the various masonic orders, including the four Craft and Mark degrees already discussed. They are arranged in their chronological sequence and given their modern titles most commonly used, with the approximate dates of a key event in the narrative of each degree:

  • 1 Entered Apprentice Apprenticeship begins
  • 2 Fellowcraft Qualified as a craftsman
  • 3 Master Mason Esoteric theme established
  • 4 Mark Master Mason 960 BC Preparation for building
  • 5 Select Master 955 BC Construction of the vault
  • 6 Royal Master 953 BC Deposition of the Word
  • 7 Most Excellent Master 950 BC Dedication of the temple
  • 8 Super Excellent Master 587 BC Destruction of the temple
  • 9 * Knight of the Sword 538 BC Release from captivity
  • 10 Excellent Master 536 BC Return, rebuilding begun
  • 11 Royal Arch Mason 535 BC Word found, work stopped
  • 12 * Knight of the East 520 BC Zerubbabel visits Darius
  • 13 * Kt. of the East & West 516 BC Rebuilding completed

The three degrees marked (*) constitute the Red Cross of Babylon, or Babylonish Pass in the Scottish and some other workings, which differs somewhat from its counterpart in the Allied degrees. In addition to these degrees, there are ceremonies of installation in the Craft, the Mark, the Royal and Select Masters, the Red Cross of Babylon and the Royal Arch, all of which enhance and amplify the narrative and help to bind it into a cohesive whole.

From the above summary it is evident that the narrative is woven round a series of events recorded in the Old Testament and that the secret vault is an essential ingredient. Jewish tradition also relates that a secret vault was constructed beneath the temple, in which confidential meetings could be held and all sacred treasures and secret documents could be stored. The construction of such a vault under ecclesiastical and other buildings of importance was not unusual in ancient times, the custom being continued into medieval times by providing the crypts associated with most cathedrals and monasteries and the castles of the Crusaders. Underground excavations carried out by the Knights Templar between 1118 and 1125 and by the British Royal Engineers in 1895, as well as modern Israeli archaeological surveys, all confirm the existence of passages and vaulted chambers beneath the mosque erected on the original temple site, but a more detailed investigation is not possible at present. A brief resume will now be given of the narrative that is the basis of the esoteric theme of the traditional or Solomonic degrees of freemasonry.


The construction of the temple at Jerusalem is well documented in the Old Testament and is the scene for the beginning of the narrative in the degree of Mark Master Mason. Of special interest is this record in 1 Kings 5, verses 13 to 16: "King Solomon raised a forced levy from the whole of Israel amounting to thirty thousand men .... Adoniram was superintendent over the whole levy .... Solomon also had seventy thousand hauliers and eighty thousand quarrymen, besides three thousand three hundred foremen in charge of the work who superintended the labourers." We also read in 2 Chronicles 2, verses 13 and 14, a letter written from Huram King of Tyre to King Solomon, in which the King of Tyre says: "I now send a skilful and experienced craftsman, master Huram, the son of a Danite woman, his father a Tyrian .... who will be able to work with your own skilled craftsmen .... to execute any design submitted to him."

In the degree of Mark Master Mason the candidate represents one of the three thousand three hundred foremen, who are responsible for ensuring that all stones are properly prepared in accordance with the working plans and correctly fitted, marked and numbered ready for erection at the site. The ritual is very dramatic. The degree teaches that every diligent workman has a chance to distinguish himself by preparing some special and superior piece of work that will strengthen and adorn the structure and that he will be rewarded appropriately, provided that he carries out the work strictly in accordance with the Divine Plan.

As soon as the temple site had been prepared, twenty seven experienced and trustworthy craftsmen were chosen, appointed as Select Masters and delegated to construct the secret vault beneath the future location of the Holy of Holies, with underground access from King Solomon's most retired apartment. In the degree of Select Master the candidate represents Zabud, a particular friend of King Solomon, who had some important business to communicate and inadvertently gained admission. The unworthy guard whose laxity allowed Zabud to enter was condemned to death and Zabud was pardoned and obligated as a Select Master. This degree warns of the great danger of carelessness and teaches the need for constant care, uprightness and integrity in the fulfilment of one's allotted duties, coupled with justice and mercy. A similar legend, but with interesting variations, is included in the Allied Masonic degrees and called the Grand Tilers of Solomon.

When the secret vault was completed the three Grand Masters deposited therein true copies of the holy vessels and an exact copy of the Book of the Law. It was agreed that if any one of the three Grand Masters should die, the other two would deposit the Word in the secret vault so that it could be restored should the temple be destroyed. In the degree of Royal Master the candidate represents Adoniram who wishes to know when he might receive the master's word. The third Grand Master responds to Adoniram with an elegant and striking discourse, during which he inadvertently reveals the place of preservation. Adoniram is told that he must continually strive in his search for truth, but that only after the temple of this life has been destroyed by death can the temple of the life hereafter be built on its foundations.

The temple was completed shortly after the death of the third Grand Master. When his death had been mourned, the holy relics from the tabernacle were moved into the Holy Place and the Ark of the Covenant was put in the Holy of Holies under the outspread wings of the cherubim, then the temple was consecrated in all its glory and beauty. King Solomon resolved to reward the most skilful of his workmen by creating them Most Excellent Masters, thus creating a new tie with his faithful craftsmen. The degree teaches that faithful service will be justly rewarded and that the tenets of freemasonry should bind us together in one fraternal union.

The temple retained its original splendour for thirty-three years, but soon after the death of King Solomon ten of the tribes revolted and formed the nation of Israel, leaving Judah and Benjamin as the Kingdom of Judah in possession of the temple. About 921 BC Shishak, King of Egypt, raided the temple and carried away the treasures. Thereafter idolatrous rulers desecrated the temple and allowed it to fall into decay, although it was partially restored by Josiah around 635 BC. The ten tribes were captured and progressively deported into captivity in Asyria from about 722 BC. The temple was destroyed in 587 BC when Nebuchadrezzar plundered Jerusalem, taking the people of Judah captive to Babylon. In the degree of Super Excellent Master, Zedekiah the last King of Judah had already fled, leaving his people to their fate. He was captured by the Chaldean army on the plains of Jericho, when his eyes were put out and he was carried into captivity bound in chains of brass. Before their capture the loyal craftsmen, including Gedaliah who was appointed and became the wise and gentle governor of Judeah, pledged themselves to continue faithful to their trust, to be true to their obligations and to be honourable on all occasions. The objective of the degree is to inculcate true devotion to the God whilst striving to enlighten our minds and purify our hearts.


In 539 BC Cyrus, King of Persia, captured Babylon. He was a great and humane ruler who gave permission to the Hebrew captives to return to their homeland and rebuild their temple. To enable them to do this he issued the Decree that is recorded in EzraE1, verses 2 and 3: "This is the word of Cyrus, King of Persia: The Lord the God of heaven has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he himself has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem in Judah. To every man of his people now among you I say, God be with him and let him go up to Jerusalem in Judah and rebuild the house of the Lord ..... and every remaining Jew, wherever he may be living, may claim aid from his neighbours in that place ....." The setting for the degree of Knight of the Sword is in the palace at Babylon. The candidate represents Zerubbabel who was born in Babylon, his name meaning the "Exile", but he was known locally as Sheshbazzar, the Prince of Judah. Zerubbabel obtains an audience with Cyrus and requests permission to return to Judea to rebuild the temple, which is granted. Cyrus sets Zerubbabel free and appoints him chief among his brethren, exacting a tribute as evidence to the neighbours that Zerubbabel is still under the protection of the King of Persia. Cyrus issues his decree and creates Zerubbabel a Knight of the Sword, investing him with a sash and sword as the emblems of his office. This degree concludes with the hazardous return to Jerusalem, including the ancient drama of "crossing the bridge".

As the Decree of Cyrus applied only to the descendents of the captives from the Kingdom of Judah, it was necessary to make sure that only they were returning to work on the temple. So that the craftsmen working on the temple could be identified easily, Zerubbabel decided to institute a new degree, that of Excellent Master, founded on the history and traditions of their ancestors. It was a relevant choice to relate this degree to their previous release from Egyptian bondage, when the Lord called Moses from his exile to lead the Chosen People out of captivity, as well as to their journeyings in the years that followed. The portions of Scripture selected for this degree, as well as the modes of recognition adopted, relate to those visions in which God gave to Moses certain signs by which the people would know that he came with Divine authority. There also are relevant aspects of the symbolism of the Tabernacle, which came into existence during the wanderings of the Exodus, although those aspects are not the basis of the degree. The degree was conferred on the craftsmen before they left Babylon. They pledged themselves to serve God, their brethren and their chosen leaders and were enjoined to journey through life with humility and to render to God that honour and praise which are most justly due to Him. The degree is commonly called the Passing of the Veils. There is no English equivalent of this Scottish form of the degree, but in some other jurisdictions variations of the Passing of the Veils are incorporated in the Royal Arch degree as an essential preamble.

The records show that about 42,360 of the remnant in exile returned to Jerusalem progressively, the first contingent under the leadership of Zerubbabel in 535 BC, followed by Ezra in 458 BC and finally Nehemiahin 445 BC. Three exiles from Babylon, having received the tokens of an Excellent Master and wishing to avail themselves of the Decree of Cyrus and assist in rebuilding the temple, presented themselves to the Sanhedrin on their arrival. They were engaged immediately, to begin clearing away the rubbish from the first temple. This is the setting for the Royal Arch degree. The three workmen detected a hollow sound when digging at the site of the previous Holy of Holies. On further investigation, after removing the keystone, they discovered the secret vault. Access was gained through the opening and the items previously deposited were recovered safely. Thus the Word was restored and the degree of Royal Arch Mason was established. The candidate represents one of the workmen who made the discovery, whose reward is exaltation as a Royal Arch Mason. He receives several lectures on historical, philosophical and mystical aspects of the degree to impress upon him that masonry is that great and universal science which includes almost every other, but that more particularly it teaches us our duty to God and to our neighbour and a knowledge of ourselves.

Shortly after work had commenced, the Samaritans in the surrounding areas sought to join in the work, but were told that they were not among those who had the right to build. Thereafter the Samaritans harassed the builders and also enlisted the support of Tattenai, the Persian governor of Samaria. Cyrus died in 530 BC and Artaxerxes usurped the throne for a brief period. By the time the site had been surveyed, the foundations laid and the walls commenced, Artaxerxes, at the instigation of the Samaritans stopped the rebuilding of the temple in the year 522 BC. Tattenai and another Persian officer of rank, Shethar-boznai, went to Jerusalem and sent a fair report to the new King Darius, suggesting that a search be instituted to learn whether the building was going on in accordance with a royal decree. At the request of the Sanhedrin, Zerubbabel went to Persia in 522EBC and visited King Darius to make a personal plea when Tattenai's report was being considered, which is the central theme of the Knight of the East.

During his visit to Babylon, Zerubbabel was asked to participate in a debate in the Persian court on questions posed by Darius, who asked which was the strongest of wine, the king or women. Zerubbabel convinced Darius that women were the strongest of those three, but that truth was stronger than all things, which is the moral taught in this degree. Darius then accepted Zerubbabel as his Kinsman who would sit by him and said that he would be happy to grant Zerubbabel's requests, even beyond what was in writing. It was then that Zerubbabel's statements concerning the rebuilding of the temple were verified by the discovery of the original decree, in the personal records of Cyrus held in the castle at Ecbatana in the province of Media. Accordingly Darius issued written confirmation of the Decree of Cyrus and gave instructions that the rebuilding was to be given every support and that no taxes should belevied. Tattenai and his colleagues thenceforth applied themselves with vigour to execute the royal commands. All of these events are recorded in the Scriptures. Before returning to Jerusalem, Zerubbabel was constituted as a Knight of the East by Darius, who also gave him all of the temple treasures not previously recovered.

Rebuilding of the temple was recommenced in 520 BC and was completed in 516 BC, without any further problems from the Samaritans. As a reward for his services, both his successful approach to Darius which resulted in the recovery of the temple treasures and also his work on the rebuilding of the temple, the Sanhedrin constituted Zerubbabel as a Knight of the East and West, this being the highest masonic honour they could bestow. This is the theme of the degree, which teaches that integrity and fortitude, as well as wisdom such as that displayed by Zerubbabel when answering the questions of Darius, are essential masonic attributes.


The foregoing degrees are but some of the many hundreds that came and went during the transition from operative free masonry to speculative freemasonry in its present form. They have stood the test of time and provide a coherent and comprehensive avenue of masonic wisdom. In the York Rite of American masonry they constitute the trunk that leads to the Knights Templar. There are several other orders in freemasonry, but most of them stand more or less in isolation. Some of them are Christian in orientation. The other major series is that of the Ancient and Accepted Rite, under various jurisdictions. Variations of nearly all of the traditional degrees are included in that Rite, but they are seldom worked except in America and Canada. In the context of this review, it is worth mentioning the Worshipful Society of Free Masons, Rough Masons, Wallers, Slaters, Paviors, Plaisterers and Bricklayers, which is commonly referred to as "The Operatives". Its rituals provide a great deal of background to the modern speculative freemasonry that evolved from it.

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