A curious puzzle that confronts a student of the Craft is the alleged transformation of Operative Masonry into Speculative Masonry.. On the one hand he is told that apprentices of actual builders generally undergo seven years work under the direct supervision and guidance of a master (or fellow of the craft, depending on the nomenclature used) before he can graduate to become a journeyman. The entered apprentice of symbolic Masonry, on the other hand, takes only from one to a couple of months depending on his ability to memorize the obligation and a portion of the lecture of the initiatory degree and from there he is promoted to become a fellowcraft, and finally to the degree of master mason. The obvious question therefore is: “why the wide disparity in the length of time” when both practices admittedly involve serious and dedicated concentration before he learns the ropes?
To answer that question, it will be necessary to take a glimpse at the beginnings of both Architecture and Masonry, and their relevance to apprenticeship.
I. A QUICK LOOK AT THE BIRTH OF ARCHITECTURE AND MASONRY
Unlike religion, the birth and creator of architecture cannot be ascertained with absolute certainty. Historical records tell us that the need for food first made man to learn how to plant and since plants require water to survive, it also taught him how to irrigate. This innovation expanded his horizon and started the geometrical growth of civilization. No sooner, it also required him to learn how to build roads and bridges, then to assemble powerful armies designed for conquests that their nations may expand and power and prosperity achieved.. Additionally, he also learned to build houses made of woods and bricks, the former of which triggered the art of Carpentry while the latter, that of Masonry, enabling him to enjoy comfort of his home and even acquire knowledge to build monuments to sing praises to their leaders. Thus was Architecture effectively subdivided into Agricultural, Civil, Geodetic, Carpentry, Masonry, Interior Design and its other allied fields.
Masonic writers are wont to credit the birth of Masonry to the ancient civilizations of Egypt, the Chaldeans, the Hindus and the Greeks. Indeed, for awesome edifices confirm their existence like the pyramids of Egypt, the legendary Tower of Babel and the Hanging Garden of Babylon, the Dravidian temples of India and the Parthenon of the Greeks. In addition, ancient capitals (or chapiters), among them the Egyptian Papyrus, the Persian Animal, the Indian Foliage and the three Greek columns named Doric, Ionic and Corinthian which all Freemasons are familiar with, bring mute testimony that indeed, these ancient peoples were the main source of mankind’s architectural talents.
In its early form, we learn that the first architect to be recorded in the annals of history was named Imhotep who was born circa 2,600 BC, the son of the Royal Architect named Kanofer, the former of whom built Egypt’s first pyramid, and although like Hiram Abif, his name was not directly mentioned as Master Builder because the credit went to his benefactor, posterity later recorded that it was indeed Imhotep who built it instead of the ruling monarch King Joser. Imhotep subsequently left a son named Rahotep and started a long line of descendants beginning with Kanofer spanning twenty five generations and ending with Kumanubra, the Minister of Public Works under the Persian king Darius I who lived around 490 BC. One can then well imagine the wealth of architectural knowledge that must have passed down from one generation to the next and the magnificent and awesome edifices these string of descendants may have built. And how these were done, one could but speculate as no credible records were registered. And how these illustrious experts did it to preserve their knowledge this writer cannot tell. But that lineage must have started the disciplined art of apprenticeship where the novice is patiently taught the science of architecture unimpeded by the hazards of war, religion and pestilence, and consequently must have clearly portrayed the actual transmission of priceless knowledge from one generation to the next. It may also be worth noting that recent writers conjectured that Melchizedek, the priest-king of Salem whom the patriarch Abraham met (remember the Christmas carol that mentioned Abraham?) may have been responsible in building the pyramids but the hypothesis does not have a leg to stand on for it to be seriously believed.
II MASONIC LEGEND AND BIBLICAL HISTORY
Masonic tradition informs us that the number of workers used in the building of King Solomon’s Temple that was built around 950 BC involved the following, and here, the source of information is the monitor which is being quoted verbatim :
“that there were employed in its erection, three Grand Masters, three thousand three hundred masters or overseers of the work, eighty thousand fellowcrafts or hewers on the mountains and in the quarries, seventy thousand Entered Apprentices or bearers of burden, etc. etc.”
In contrast, the words used 1Kings, 5:29 in the New American Bible, New Catholic Translation, are:
“Solomon had seventy thousand carriers and eighty thousand stonecutters in addition to the three thousand three hundred overseers answerable to Solomon;”
and in 2Chronicles,2:16-18 of the same book it said:
“Thereupon. Solomon took a census of all the alien men who were in the land of Israel (following the census David, his father, had taken of them) who were found to number one hundred fifty three thousand six hundred. Of these he made seventy thousand carriers and eighty thousand cutters in the mountains and three thousand six hundred (300 more than the figure mentioned in 1Kings, 5:29) overseers to keep the people working.”
III. A QUICK ANALYSIS
Now, while the figures used in the Monitor basically agree with that of sacred history, the titles or designations differ. Consider these:
1. The title Grand Master was not yet used in ancient times. Solomon and Hiram of Tyre are kings, while Hiram Abif was not and therefore a common title for the three could not be framed. That there were three Grand Masters makes the use of the word questionable especially because the ritual made mention of 3 Grand Masters. A logical alternative would have been to rank one as Grand Master and the other two as Grand Wardens.
2. While the term “master or overseers of the work” may be logical, the 3,300 figure can only form 1,100 fellowcraft lodges and an equal number of entered apprentice lodges. This is so because two masters are required to form a lodge of fellowcrafts and one for the apprentices. These figures will therefore have an average of 75 and 65 members per lodge respectively which is rather large. And these averages far exceed the 3, 5, 7 membership that was mentioned in the monitor.
3. The terms “fellowcraft” and “entered apprentices”, like the title “Grand Master”, were appended apparently only to romanticize the hierarchal titles of the workers to project the Hiram Abif legend in accordance with the tenets of the Craft.
4.The fairly large number of entered apprentices or bearers of burden (as called in the Holy Bible) was precipitated by the fact that the cedars and marbles are to be sawed and hewn in the mountains and in the quarries in their exact specifications and therefore required care in transport to the place where the temple is to be built. Note that in the strict sense, the word apprentice cannot possibly be elevated to fellowcrafts because these are two distinct functions.
5.A crucial issue involves the designation of Hiram Abif as Grand Master. Some writers contend that he was merely a worker skilled in brass, etc, thus equating his functions merely to that of an interior decorator since nowhere in the Holy Bible was it mentioned that he was the master of the works. If we are to consider ancient customs where the colossal edifices are credited to rulers (remember King Joser?!) and especially because the workers are Phoenicians as chronicled in 2Chronicles,2:16-18, then the apparent downgrading of the functions of Hiram Abif is not at all unusual. The chroniclers of the Holy Bible, after all, are Hebrews who are exalting the God-given talents and wisdom of Solomon and not of the men of Tyre. In modern-day Philippines, credit is given Imelda Marcos for the building of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) while the architect who actually built it is all but totally forgotten..
IV. THE ANCIENT MASONIC “SCHOOLS”
It appears the most prominent “Masonic school” of ancient times are the mystery schools of Egypt where even the ruling kings participated in the ceremonies. It is in the confines of these mystery schools where the wisest of philosophers from other nations visited Egypt to be initiated in the sacred mysteries at Memphis, Thebes and Hermopolis, that included, ancient philosophers like Solon, Pythagoras and Plato.
India’s role as a seat of learning cannot be downgraded. Elizabeth Clare Prophet in her books “The Lost Years of Jesus” and “The Lost Teachings of Jesus” contends that Jesus spent the 17 lost years of his life to the study of Eastern discipline in the Near East, which although not exactly pinpointed to be architectural studies, their schools of learning conforms basically with Egyptian mysteries. Sadly however, the lack of written materials on architecture in India, like those in Iran and China, were not passed on to subsequent generations and the failure of the geometricians of their time to write did not leave verifiable trails that would support their architectural wizardries.
But the Greeks were blessed. Many of their works were put down to writing and were preserved for posterity and the future generations to behold!
V. HOW ARCHITECTURE THRIVED IN THE ANNO DOMINI
Undoubtedly, the forerunner of architecture that grew side by side with Christianity were propagated by the Romans through its Roman Collegia. This organization was already working full steam when Julius Caesar, the enigmatic figure who not only cavorted with Cleopatra after she was presented as a gift at the age of 22 that was seductively wrapped in an oriental carpet (whether she was in her birthday suit, history did not say), also took with him to Rome no less than 2,000 priceless manuscripts in 48 BC, and later, after the death of Julius Caesar, Marcus Antonius (Marc Anthony to you), also helped himself and took away several thousand volumes more. These twin ransacking of the Alexandrian libraries may have been the reason why Tuscan and Composite increased to five the Orders of Architecture that were previously invented by the Greeks. The Romans, not really good architects but able administrators who are proficient at the building of roads and bridges, compensated their deficiency by simply adopting the talents of the citizens of subjugated countries whose expertise are deemed indispensable to their needs. The architects of the latter willingly worked (a few of course, grudgingly) for their masters to ply their trade following the dictum “if you can’t lick em, then prudence demand that you join em.”.
Emperor Diocletian who ruled the Roman Empire until 312 AD bitterly fought Christianity and as a consequence dealt leniently with the Roman Masons until the time they refused to make a statue for Aesculapius, the demigod of healing and medicine in ancient Greek mythology and consequently, Diocletian tortured to death the four master masons named Claudius, Nicosastrus, Symphorian and Castorius, and one apprentice named Simplicius when they refused to perform the emperor’s bidding.. These martyrs became the patron saints of Masons throughout Europe after their deaths and a poem about them was written called the Regius MS, a clear testimony that apprenticeship already existed during these days. The four crowned martyrs would also provide the name of Quatour Coronati Lodge that was established sometime later.
In fine, Masonry spread far and wide because of Rome’s power and Christianity’s steady growth. What was then the known world that comprise the European mainland benefited from the architectural expertise both of the subjugators and religious propagators. France had its Campomagnes, Italy its Comacine masters, Germany its Steinmetzens and the Druids who were later called Britons organized the tenets of Craft in the form of lodges. Additionally, the Knights Templar was also organized in 1118 by nine knights led by Hugh the Payens, which, after Jacque’s DeMolays death in 1314 triggered the formation of four Masonic lodges, the first at Naples in the East, the second at Edinburgh in the West, the third at Stockholm in the North and the fourth at Paris in the Southern backdoor. All these organizations basically have similar rules and regulations in administering their members which curiously always include a belief in a Supreme Being wherewith they acknowledge worthy of pious devotion and respect. As the monarchs built castles and palaces, so did the ecclesiastical authorities produced magnificent cathedrals that were the wonders of the day. Similarly, they established a general procedure on apprenticeship that generally last seven years before these initiates are declared masters of the trade. Said initiates were formally registered or entered in lodge records before they are formally accepted by the guilds and thus the creation of the phrase “Entered Apprentices.”
The birth of the Grand Lodges, most notably the Grand Lodge of England that was established in 1717, being of more contemporary origin and more so because these were already subjected to so numerous books citing their impact on apprenticeship will no longer be mentioned in detail for reasons that no longer need explanation.
VI. PARALELISM OF THE BUILDER’S APPRENTICE WITH THE MASONS OF THE SYMBOLIC MASONRY
So this article has now reached the crucial stage of comparing the apprentice of the Operative Masonry with that of its symbolic counterpart and therefore since the time frame is obviously different does it follow that the two like words are, in substance, not the same?!
Now, before that question is answered, it is noteworthy to explain that save for the fact that apprenticeship in Operative Masonry existed, how it was done was never committed to writing. This situation is of course normal because mystery schools and guilds are undoubtedly shrouded in secrecy and wee never put to print. How then can we compare the apprenticeship of Operative Masons with that of Speculative Masonry?! Isn’t it a fact that when one becomes a master mason in the symbolic degree he in effect has earned for him the equivalent rank of journeyman in the operative degree who is entitled to travel withersoever he wishes?!
Well, the answer can be both yes and no at the same time. But note the seven years span of time required in the apprenticeship of Operative Masons and the same number of years it will take to take to undergo the progressive line of officers of Speculative Masonry as will be explained below, which for the sake of brevity and to safe-keep certain tenets that do not deserve to be put to print, will be explained in very general terms.
1.The Junior Steward (the 1st year of symbolic apprenticeship.)
The Junior Steward is the lowest-ranking officer of the Lodge. In ancient times he and the Senior Steward serve as the reliable assistants of the Junior Warden during refreshments. Conversely, their jewels is a cornucopia, the symbol of abundance. With the advent of catering and the presence of lower-ranked subordinates like petitioners, fellowcrafts and newly-raised masons during the hour of refreshments, lodge customs now relieve the stewards of this antiquated duty.
During conferrals, however, he is tasked to assist his Senior in preparing the candidate to receive all the three degrees of Masonry. His job is simple, he follows his Senior’s bidding and imitate his moves and actions especially as these pertain to the floorworks and the proper handling of the rods. In the closing and opening of the lodge, he does nothing but watch, watch, watch!
2. The Senior Steward (2nd year)
Having completed his 1st year’s apprenticeship and upon proving his proficiency, he now takes the responsibilities of the Senior Steward who is principally assigned to prepare the candidate and train his successor to his previous job. He now learns by heart the qualifications of the candidate so that questions asked by the Senior Deacon are answered correctly and with dispatch.. He also improves his knowledge on the floorworks and keenly observes the movements not only of the Senior Deacon but also the others inside the lodge to enable him to put these to good use later when the need arise.
3. The Junior Deacon (3rd year)
He is then appointed Junior Deacon, whose job complements that of the Tyler’s, and has the equivalent responsibility of an Inner Guard. He also acts as the messenger of the Senior Warden. During opening and closing ceremonies and teams up with the Senior Deacon to perform the indispensable floorworks needed by the rituals of the Craft.
Except for a cameo role in the conferral of degrees, he does nothing except to keenly observe the Senior Deacon because in the ensuing year he will be expected to perform the latter’s job flawlessly if he can.
4. The Senior Deacon (4th year)
Having honed his knowledge on floorworks and their symbolism, he now is responsible for the arrangements and care of the Three Great Lights of Masonry. He also takes charge escorting the candidate during the conferral of degrees once inside the lodge. In addition, he is also tasked to prepare himself for the winding stairs lecture because he might be required to deliver it should occasion require.
5. The Junior Warden (5th year)
The first of the three lights, he is elected and within three years’ time is expected to govern the lodge. He is responsible during the hour of refreshment (omit the hour of refreshment and attending a lodge meeting will be boring), and more importantly, sits as master during first-degree conferrals. He is examined on his proficiency on the first-degree lecture, although whether he is able to put it to good use later, no one can tell! During opening and closing ceremonies he is like Eddie Garcia playing a small part in the movies starred by one of his best friends in movieland. When the need for it requires, especially when both the Worshipful Master and the Senior Warden are nowhere to be found, it is his indispensable duty to open the lodge otherwise all that they can do is convert the aborted lodge meeting to the hour of refreshment, which is his primary duty in the first place.
6 The Senior Warden (6th year)
Next in line to the coveted title called Worshipful Master, he assists the latter in opening and closing the lodge. On the subject of conferrals, he sits in the East and performs the functions of its illustrious tenant. Conversely, it is his indispensable duty to open and close the lodge whenever the Master is not around. He is also examined on his proficiency on the Winding Stairs lecture but it is seldom put to good use during his time as Senior Warden because he cannot sit in the east and do lecture of a fellowcraft degree at the same time.
7. The Worshipful Master(7th year)
His duties require him to be conversant with all the edicts, rules and regulations not only of his lodge which he is called to preside but also of the Constitution and bylaws of the Grand Lodge where it is beholden, that is, in addition to proficiency in the ritual wherein he will be first examined before he can ascend the Oriental Chair. Mastery of the 3rd degree lecture is also a must.
Although the rules require specific duties on both the Senior and Junior Wardens during conferral of degrees and also on the latter during the hours of refreshment, he is never relieved of his overall responsibilities. He may berate his junior when one brother has drank one too many for intemperance and excess, because while lodge rules allow him to delegate, he can never escape from his sworn responsibilities on everything that happened in the lodge. After his term ends, he is awarded the past master’s jewel to symbolize that he indeed has graduated as a “true blue master” capable of governing the lodge wherewith he is called to preside.
And to end this rather long article, it may be worth answering a veiled question that was playfully hidden by the founding fathers of Symbolic Masonry and that is:
If the worth of the builder’s apprentice is not the same as the apprentice of Symbolic Masonry, what then is equivalent worth of the degree of a Master Mason who has not gone through the chairs in the symbolic degree when compared with that of Operative Masonry?
and the answer is:
What else but a mason classified under the acronym KSF, or the knight, spoon and fork degree, for even in ancient times the use of these implements in banquets and merrymaking are indeed indispensable tools in the in the supposedly mysterious realm of Masonry!!
Ancient Engineers- L. Sprague de Camp
Freemasons for Dummies- Christopher Hodapp
Freemason, Inside the World’s Oldest
Secret Society- H. Paul Jeffers
Morals and Dogma- Albert Pike
The Secret History of Freemasonry- Paul Naudon
The Secrets of Freemasonry- Robert Lomas
The Holy Bible
The Craft’s Monitor
Note: The writer is indebted to Dr. Constante Pacis for the several books that he graciously gifted the writer and were consequently used as inspirational references in composing this article.