Which pages of the Holy Book are opened during degree work?
Freemasons who wish to actively participate in degree work will have to memorize passages of scripture for proficiency.
With a true understanding of the meaning of each Masonic degree verse, your memorization will not just be the memorization of huge blocks of ritual words by rote (without understanding them).
This removes much of the mysticism of each verse's actual meaning and makes it much easier to remember the words, once you understand what is truly being said within the context of its ongoing flow...especially the Masonic Degree Verse in the 3rd degree.
In play form, the Masonic Degree Verse in
Ecclesiastes can be acted out with gestures to enhance the experience and
promote the Masonic knowledge of your brothers.
Below is the Masonic Degree Verse for
each of the 3 degrees to which the Christian Bible is opened when performing each of these specific degrees and a discussion of its meaning.
Entered Apprentice Degree
First Degree Verse
The square lies on top of the compasses (the opposite
configuration of a Master Mason's square and compasses.)
Verse 1: "Behold, how good
and how pleasant it is for brethren
to dwell together in unity!
Verse 2: It is like the
precious ointment upon the head, that
ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard: that
went down to the skirts of his garments;
Verse 3: As the dew of
Hermon, and as the dew that
descended upon the mountains of Zion:
for there the
commanded the blessing, even life forever more."
Who was Aaron? Aaron was Moses' brother, and the
first High Priest under the Mosaic covenant.
Who was Hermon? Well,...
Hermon isn't a he.
Hermon is a mountain (or technically, a range of high mountains on the northern
boundary of Israel. Mt. Hermon's snowcapped peaks were a source of ice,
aka (also known as) "Ice mountain". The Six-Day War not only
gave Israel control of Jerusalem, but also of the Mount Hermon area (Golan
The Masonic degree verse of the Entered
Apprentice Degree represents Youth, when the body is strong. Those who
walk in the ways of the LORD are rewarded the blessing of eternal life.
Fellow Craft Degree Verse
Second Degree Verse
An easy way to remember the configuration
of the compasses atop the square is: Up North - Down South.
(a plumbline). This refers to the left-most leg of the compasses being on top of the square and
the right-most leg being under the square.
Amos, Chapter 7
Verse 7: "Thus he shewed (archaic word meaning "showed") me:
and, behold, the
stood upon a wall made by a plumbline,
with a plumbline in his hand.
Verse 8: And the LORD said
unto me, Amos, what seest thou?
And I said, A plumbline.
Then said the LORD,
Behold, I will set a plumbline
in the midst of my people Israel:
I will not again pass by them any more."
This Masonic degree verse,... then, as now,
denotes the LORD's plumbline which represents uprightness of conduct throughout
one's life. The Fellow Craft degree denotes middle age.
Master Mason Degree Verse
Third Degree Verse
The Master Mason has learned to circumscribe his passions. (See the
Point Within a Circle.) Therefore, the compasses lie on top of the
Ecclesiastes, Chapter 12
Verse 1: "Remember now thy
Creator in the days of thy youth,
while the evil days come not,
nor the years draw nigh,
when thou shalt say,
I have no pleasure in them;
Verse 2: While the sun, or
the light, or the moon,
or the stars, be not darkened,
nor the clouds return after the rain:
Verse 3: In the day when the
keepers of the house shall tremble,
and the strong men shall bow themselves,
and the grinders cease because they are few,
and those that look out of the windows be darkened.
Verse 4: And the doors shall
be shut in the streets,
when the sound of the grinding is low,
and he shall rise up at the voice of the bird,
and all the daughters of musick
shall be brought low;
Verse 5: Also when they
shall be afraid of that which is high,
and fears shall be in the way,
and the almond tree shall flourish,
and the grasshopper shall be a burden,
and desire shall fail:
because man goeth to his long home,
and the mourners go about the streets:
Verse 6: Or ever the silver
cord be loosed,
or the golden bowl be broken,
or the pitcher be broken at the fountain,
or the wheel broken at the cistern.
Verse 7: Then shall the dust
return to the earth as it was:
and the spirit shall return
unto God who gave it."
This Masonic Degree verse found in
Ecclesiastes Chapter 12 describes the infirmities of age. When a Master
Mason degree, (or third degree) is being worked, the Holy Book is opened to this
passage in Ecclesiastes, which according to Jewish tradition, was written by King Solomon as a book of contemplation and his own personal self reflection.
What do these lines of Masonic Degree Verse actually mean?
Let's take a look at them again.
VERSE 1: YOUTH
"Remember now thy Creator in the days of
thy youth": This alludes to the fact that as we grow older, each of us
fondly remembers the glorious days of our youth when all things were possible.
With the hindsight of age and experience, advice is given to youth to "gather
the harvest while they are young" because as we age, we change and are not able
to enjoy things with the same lightness of heart.
VERSE 2: MANHOOD
"While the sun, or the light, or the
moon, or the stars, be not darkened," refers to the fact that as we
grow older, our eyes begin to fail.
It is also an allegory to remembering
back to the time when life looked bright with promise before the "twilight
years" and "sunset years" of our lives.
"nor the clouds return after the rain:"
Rest and recuperation take longer as we age.
"In the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble",refers to no longer being able to take care of yourself.
"and the strong men shall bow themselves" refers to the body's degeneration
process and the inability to physically walk without stooping.
"and the grinders cease because they are
few," refers to the loss of teeth.
"and those that look out of the windows
be darkened" refers to failing eyesight.
"And the doors shall be shut in the
streets" refers to no longer being able to hear the noisiness of life due to
"and he shall rise up at the voice of
the bird," refers to aged people being unable to sleep and arising early.
"and all the daughters of musick shall
be brought low" refers to changes in the vocal chords which change and bring
about a coarser and less melodious quality to the voice.
"When they shall be afraid of that which is high, and
fears shall be in the way."
Elderly people become unfamiliar with the speed of which
the world changes. Also, as we become older, our reflex speed decreases
and things that we once tackled with abandon; we are now more cautious to
"And the almond tree shall flourish."
Almond trees have large, delicate, snow-white blossoms.
Figuratively, this means that our hair turns to white.
"And the grasshopper shall be a burden."
When we are young, hope springs eternal. The
grasshoppers that plagued the farmers were something to be dealt with by
completely replanting the field, as a young man can withstand a total loss and
look forward to the hope of the following seasons.
However due to his decreased
energies, an elderly farmer would find that the loss of an entire year's harvest
(and all the work of replanting) to be a devastation and the elderly farmer
would not look upon the same issue as "lightly" as when he was a youth.
"And desire shall fail."
The dreams which take a long time to come to fruition
are not as desirous in the elderly as in youth because they know they do not
have the time to learn and work them to obtain the desired results. The
gradual decrease in physical desire also diminishes in both male and female.
"Or ever the silver chord be loosed, or the golden
bowl be broken."
The loosed silver cord is believed to denote the spinal
column and therefore the physical infirmities (stooped back) of age. The
golden bowl is believed to denote the brain and the gradual decline of mental
powers, which in dotage is described as senility.
"Or the pitcher be broken at the fountain."
Having a desire to urinate, but being unable to do so.
"Or the wheel broken at the cistern."
The body contains all its blood, (the cistern is full),
but the heart's pumping action (the wheel) ceases.
"Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was;
and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it."
This last portion of the Masonic degree verse refers to "ashes to ashes, dust to dust", which are
still the words voiced when we inter (bury) the dead.
While this Master Mason, third degree Masonic degree
verse may seem unduly depressing to some, as it describes the deterioration of
each individual part of the body; it accurately describes our journey through
life and makes us ponder on our choices.
While it describes the deterioration of our physical
"temple", and the passages of time which happen to each of us, we must remember
that our ending is the same as our beginning.
The LORD created us, gave us
HIS commandments of law and it is to him that we return...which is the final
triumph...the one treasure in life that cannot be taken away.
If you have lived your life properly, old age is no
longer "the evil days", but becomes instead, reminiscent of the
harvest...the love, the friendships, the experiences and the fond memories...
...the true cornucopia of receiving the "plenty".
Ancient of Days, a watercolor etching by William Blake, 1794, showing God applying the compasses to mankind, below.
These biblical and Masonic verses illuminate the underlying meaning of each degree.