Symbolical Masonry, by H.L. Haywood, , at sacred-texts.com
p. 162 p. 163
p. 164 p. 165
The term "Fellow Craft" as a compound word was first used by Scotch Masons and it so happens that our earliest detailed picture of the old manner of passing an Apprentice to the Fellow Craft grade is found in the Schaw Statutes, an old Scottish document. Brother Gould has given so complete a summary of the matter that I shall quote his paragraph in full as found in his "Concise History" p. 253:
"The most complete picture we possess of the early Masonry of Scotland is afforded by the Schaw Statutes of 1598 and 1599. These are Codes of Laws signed and promulgated by William Schaw, Master of the King's Work and General Warden of the Masons, the one directed to the Craft in general, the other to the Lodge of Kilwinning. From these two codes we learn very little with regard to the entry of Apprentices—simply that in each case it was booked—but on other points they are more communicative. Thus a Master (or Fellow Craft, which was a term importing the same meaning) was to be received or admitted in the presence of six Masters and two Entered Apprentices; his name and mark [each Mason had a private mark which he chiselled or painted on his finished work just as a painter will place his name or initials in one corner of his picture.—H.L.H.] were also to be booked, together with the names of those by whom he was admitted, and of his Intenders [or instructors].
[paragraph continues] No one was to be admitted, according to the earlier Code, without an Essay [a specimen of his work] and sufficient trial of his skill and worthiness in his vocation and craft; or, according to the later one, without a sufficient essay and proof of memory and art of craft. A further regulation requires an annual trial of the art of memory and science thereof, of every Fellow Craft and Apprentice, according to their vocations, under penalty if any of them shall have lost one point thereof."
This manner of Passing was in vogue in Scotland; evidence shows that a similar usage obtained in England as well. The term "Fellow Craft" was first introduced into the English Lodges by the Constitutions of 1723, but even then, it still meant, so far as the grade was concerned, the same thing as Master. It was not until some years later that the two names came to have their present import.
"Fellow Craft" literally means fellow, or companion, of the Craft. In language other than English it is usually derived from some form of the word companion and the meaning is always as that given above. Brother Gould, along with other authorities, believed that the Operative First Degree was broken in two by the Speculatives some time between 1723 and 1738, and that the former half of the ceremony was made into the new First and the latter half into the new Second. This Second became known as the Fellow Craft Degree, while the old Second became, after sundry additions, the new Third, or Master Degree. In this manner Fellow Craft and Master Mason came to have their present meanings.
The Operative Apprentice was compelled to prove his proficiency by a masterpiece or essay before being passed
to the higher grade. This means that the Apprentice was one learning to use his tools, and that the Fellow was one who had achieved, at least in part, that knowledge. In our present Ritual this old distinction is still observed so that the key word to the Second Degree is knowledge, just as the key word to the First Degree was obedience. This knowledge is at once a knowing about things, and a knowing how to do things, and the entire Fellow Craft ceremony is a kind of treatise on the functions played by enlightenment, information, and mental development in the life of man. We know that while Operative Masons were men of trained minds they did not incorporate into their simple ceremonies any such elaborate treatment of knowledge as that found in our present degree. We owe this enlargement of the Rite to a Scotchman, William Preston.
Preston was born in Edinburgh on August 7, 1742. At twelve years of age he was compelled by his father's death to leave school at which time he was apprenticed to a printer. In 1762 he moved to London where he found employment with the king's printer. During his first year or so in London he was made a Mason, becoming a member of a Lodge of Scotchmen situated in London, and later, at the age of twenty-three, a Master. Accepting the obligations of the office with more than usual seriousness he set out to master the history and symbolism of the Order.
Preston found that the usual ceremony of initiation consisted of a reading of the Old Charges to the candidate followed by oral expositions. These expositions were often hasty and superficial to a degree, and they seemed a very unworthy form of Lecture to Preston, who had studied hard and mastered "a notable literary style." Accordingly he set out to write a new system of lectures more in harmony with the dignity of the Fraternity
and with the real value of the initiation ceremony. After many delays and much criticism these Lectures were sanctioned by Grand Lodge and "diffused throughout England." But, owing to an unfortunate state of affairs, Preston's Lectures were replaced by Hemming's at the time of the Union of Ancients and Moderns in 1813. Meanwhile Preston had organised a band, or club, of disciples and it was through the influence of this group that his lectures "came to America, where they are the foundation of our Craft lectures," the fact that has led me to this biographical sketch of the man. To this day most states are using the Prestonian system as modified by Philip Webb.
Brother Roscoe Pound, whose "Philosophy of Masonry" I am never weary of recommending, and whom I am following herein, has pointed out that Preston's age was one in which "finality was the dominant idea"; that "it was the period of formal over-refinement in every department of human activity;" and that it was the century of intellectualism when "reason was the central idea of all philosophical thought" and "knowledge was regarded as the universal solvent" of all problems.
True to the spirit of his day and awake to the necessity of education in a land without a free public school system Preston undertook to transform Masonry into an academy of learning. Accordingly we find in the Second Degree, which most carries his impress, a complete system of education, covering the Five Senses, the Liberal Arts, and the Sciences. "To-day this seems a narrow and inadequate conception, but the basis of such a philosophy is perfectly clear if we remember the man and his time."
"One need not say (I am quoting Pound) that we cannot accept the Prestonian philosophy of Masonry as sufficient for the Masons of to-day. Much less can we accept the details or even the general framework of his ambitious scheme to expound all knowledge and set forth a complete outline of a liberal education in three lectures. We need not wonder that Masonic philosophy has made so little headway in Anglo-American Masonry when we reflect that this is what we have been brought up on and that it is all the most Masons ever hear of. It comes with an official sanction that seems to preclude inquiry, and we forget the purpose of it in its obsolete details. But I suspect we do Preston a great injustice in thus preserving the literal terms of the lectures at the expense of their fundamental idea. In his day they did teach—to-day they do not.
"Suppose to-day a man of Preston's tireless diligence attempted a new set of lectures which should unify knowledge and present its essentials so that the ordinary man could comprehend them. To use Preston's words, suppose lectures were written, as a result of seven years of labour, and the co-operation of a society of critics, which set forth a regular system of modern knowledge demonstrated on the clearest principles and established on the firmest foundation. Suppose, if you will, that this was confined simply to the knowledge of Masonry. Would not Preston's real idea (in age of public schools) be more truly carried out than by our present lip service, and would not his central notion of the lodge as a center of light vindicate itself by its results."
Brother Pound's idea of modernising the educational element in the Second Degree appeals to me as one of eminent sanity and desirability. However, few of us can
afford to wait for such a time; we are in the Fraternity now, and we must have its services now or never. But we do not need to fear that if we throw ourselves into a thoroughgoing study of the degree as it now is that we shall be disappointed, for it will richly repay the most laborious examination. Besides, there are many elements in it, as we shall see, that derive from the customs of the Old Builders centuries before Preston was born. With these elements, and with Preston's great conception of the function of knowledge in the life of man, we shall now have to do.