To the New Fellowcraft
You have taken your second step in Masonry and have passed to the degree of a Fellowcraft. You have received further light, have assumed additional obligations, and are well on your way in an important personal experience.
Freemasonry was originally associated with actual construction, but by the XVIII Century had become largely a social and philosophic brotherhood.
During the earlier era, Fellowcrafts made up the great body of the Craft. They were the skilled workmen who actually erected the mighty churches and castles of the Middle Ages, and the inspired artists whose "magic chisels turned stone to lace", and enriched the Gothic architecture with sculpture of surpassing beauty. They were also the voting members of the Operating lodges and from their ranks the lodge officers were chosen.
The lecture which is an essential part of this degree is educational as well as philosophical. It is a highly condensed symbolic version of the education imparted to the Operative Entered Apprentice during his period of apprenticeship, which was necessary before he could be advanced as a Fellow of the Craft. Like the education of the ancient apprentice, this lecture is a blending of the practical and the theoretical, the commonplace and the sublime, the material and the spiritual. In it we find emphasized the respect which our ancient brethren entertained for the seven liberal arts and sciences, the particular importance which they attached to Geometry, the science upon which their own art was erected, and the reverence which the craft has always shown for the Great and Sacred Name of God.
The principal teachings of the Entered Apprentice Degree are moral; those of the Fellowcraft Degree are intellectual. This Degree encourages personal education. It touches on some of the basics of human knowledge, the development of which adds much satisfaction to the art of living.
Corn, Wine, and Oil
The wages which our ancient brethren received for their labours in the building of King Solomon's Temple, are paid no more. We use them only as symbols, save in the dedication, constitution, and consecration of a new lodge, or in the laying of cornerstones, when once again the fruit of the land, the juice of the grape, and the essence of the olive are poured to consecrate a new unit of brotherhood in the fellowship of lodges or to begin a new structure dedicated to public or Masonic use.
In the Great Light are many references to these particular forms of wealth. In ancient days the grapes in the vineyard, the olives in the groves, and the grain of the field were not only wealth, but the measure of trade; so many skins of wine, so many cruses of oil, so many bushels of corn were then as dollars and cents today. Thus when our ancient brethren received wages in corn, wine, and oil they were paid for this labours in coin of the realm.
Freemasons receive no material wages for their labours, but if the work done in a lodge is paid for only in coin of the heart, such wages are no less real. They may sustain as does the corn, refresh as does the wine, and give joy and gladness as does the oil. How much we receive depends entirely on our Masonic work. Our ancient brethren were paid for their physical labours. Whether their wages were paid for work performed upon the mountains and in the quarries, or whether they received corn, wine, and oil because they laboured in the fields and vineyards, it was true then and it is true now, that only "in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread". To receive the Masonic equivalent of the ancient corn, wine, and oil, a brother must labour. He must till the fields of is own heart or build the temple of his own "house not made with hands". He must give labour to his neighbour or carry stones for his brother's temple.
If he stands and waits, and watches and wonders, he will not be able to ascend into the Middle Chamber where our ancient brethren received their wages. If he works for the joy of working, does his part in his lodge work, takes his place among the labourers of Freemasonry, he will receive corn, wine, and oil in measures pressed down and running over and know a fraternal joy as substantial in fact as it is ethereal in quality, as real in his heart as it is intangible to the profane world.
The Winding Stairs
The most outstanding symbol in the Degree of Fellowcraft is the Flight of Winding Stairs. We go up "with winding stairs" into "the Middle Chamber of King Solomon's Temple". Also we travel up the winding stairs of life and arrive, if we climb steadfastly, at the middle chamber of existence, which is removed from infancy and youth by the steps of knowledge and experience.
There is a symbolism in the fact that the stairway winds.
The winding stairway is one which tires a man's soul. He must approach it with faith. Nothing is clear before him but the next step. He must believe that there is a top; that if he but climbs long enough he will reach a Middle Chamber, a goal, a place of light. Thus the Winding Stair and the Middle Chamber are symbols of life and manhood. No man can see what he will become. As a boy he may have a goal, but he may arrive at other Middle Chambers than the one he visualized when he started the ascent. A man cannot know whether he will ever live to climb all the stairs. The Angel of Death may stand around the corner of the next step. yet, in spite of a lack of knowledge of what is at the top; in spite of the fact that a Flaming Sword may bar his ascent, man keeps on climbing. He climbs in confidence that there is a goal, and that he will reach it. And if perchance he does not, a Mason has faith that if he never sees the glory of the Middle Chamber in this life, a lamp is set to guide him to one beyond his mortal gaze; to the one set in the house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
We are taught that we should use the five senses that God has given us to climb the seven steps of the stairway which we designate as the seven Liberal Arts and Sciences. When we rise by Grammar and Rhetoric, we must consider that they mean not only language, but all methods of communication. The step of Logic means a knowledge not only of all methods of reasoning, but of all reasoning which logicians have accomplished. When we ascend by Arithmetic and Geometry, we must visualize all science. The step denominated Music means not only sweet and harmonious sounds, but all beauty, poetry, art, nature, and loveliness of whatever kind. As for the seventh step of Astronomy, surely it not only suggests the study of the solar system and the stars, but that they symbolize a supreme creative power and wisdom, without which the universe could not exist.
The Letter G
You will recall the prominence which was given the Letter G. It may be considered as having a double interpretation: (1) as being the first letter of our name for that Deity in whose existence all Masons have professed belief, the continued expression of which is symbolized by the presence of the Volume of the Sacred Law upon our altar; (2) as being the initial of Geometry, regarded as the basic science of Operative Masonry, now symbolizing to Speculative Masons the unchanging natural laws which govern the whole material universe.
Together they symbolize that attribute of God revealed to us through Geometry: God as the great Intelligence of the universe. This is consistent as the entire degree makes its appeal to the intellect.