Evil, in the form of a tragedy, is set forth
in the drama of the Third Degree. Here we
witness a good and wise man, a builder,
working for others, and giving others work.
This is work of the highest order, dedicated
wholly to God. Through no fault of his
own, he experiences tragedy from those he
would call his friends and his fellow Masons.
Here is pure and absolute evil – a complete
picture of human anguish and sorrow.
The ritual explains how the Craft dealt
with this tragedy. The first step was to
impose the supreme penalty on those
who had possessed the will to destruction.
Therefore, they had to be slain lest further
tragedy would follow.
Hence we learn the great truth that the
greatest enemy man has makes war upon
the good of mankind. Our response to
such heinous crimes is that no quarter can
be given. Throughout history, sound and
proper justice has, and never will permit,
What of the victim of the tragedy? Here
is the most difficult and profoundest lesson
of the drama of the Third Degree. It is
difficult to understand, and difficult to
believe without a true understanding of
the implications of a spiritual life.
Because the victim was a good man,
his integrity rooted in an unvarying faith
in God, that which destroyed him in one
sense, could not destroy him in another.
This is because the spirit in him rose above
the reach of evil, and by virtue of that he
was raised from a dead level to a living
What is the lesson to be learnt here?
Let us imagine the case of a genuinely good
man who has become the victim of the most
terrible tragedy, one that has been caused by
the treachery of his friends. This deceit has
brought devastation upon the foundations
of his life, upon his home, his reputation,
even his ability to earn a living.
How can he be raised above the clutch
of such destruction to his circumstances?
How can he ever emerge a happier man,
having endured such an ordeal? This is
achieved by the effect of his spirit rising
to the level of forgiveness, or resignation,
or even self-sacrifice, by refusing to stoop
to retaliation, or even to harbour thoughts
In such a spirit, the truest and most
profound human happiness in the
circumstances can be found. The secret
of such power is in the Third Degree,
symbolised by the tragedy of Hiram Abiff.
It is the climax of the Craft ceremonies of
Freemasonry. It stirs men to serve the truth
by steadfastly maintaining their noblest
aspirations even in the face of appalling
adversity, out of which can rise a more
perfect tribute to our Masonic ideals.
Next in importance, and in many ways
equal in interest, is the strange and
captivating ‘search for that which was lost’.
This has an historical background. To the
early Jewish people, frequently a name was
peculiarly identified with a person. It was
held in reverence. Hence it was often secret.
Hence a substitute name was used in daily life.
In particular the name of God was held
in extreme reverence. This holy name was
never pronounced above a whisper.
After a while it was only spoken by
the High Priest, and then only when
alone in the Holy of Holies on the Day
of Atonement. It is understood that at
the time of the Babylonian captivity, the
High Priest was killed before he had the
opportunity to pass the word on to his
successor. Hence ‘the word’ was lost.
All this appears in the ritual in the form
of a story or fable, called an allegory. So why
does the ritual not explain fully and clearly
the meaning of this symbolism? This is
one of the genuine mysteries of the Third
Degree, which leaves the candidate to find
out the meaning for himself. It provides him
with one of the most important challenges
in his career as a Craft Freemason.
Freemasonry’s brotherly love began
with the close ties of our forefathers – the
operative Masons. Living together, working
together, planning together and protecting
each other soon made men learn to love
Through their early and simple ritual
it may well be that the Five Points of
Fellowship had its origin. It would have
united them in one sincere bond of fraternal
affection. We can summarise this remarkable
concept as follows:
In stretching forth the hand of friendship,
and a pledge of brotherly love to render him
Pledges us to support a brother in all his
praiseworthy undertakings, and reminded
that we should press forward in the exercise
of charity and kindness to a distressed fellow
creature, whether Freemason or not.
A brother, when at prayer, in his
devotions to Almighty God should always
remember another brother’s welfare as his
own, when the petition and prayer for self
intermingles with aspirations of benevolence
for a friend.
Demonstrates that a brother’s lawful
secrets when entrusted to us, we should keep
as our own. If he confides to us a secret, we
are made keepers of his trust as well as his
secret. To betray a trust is not the act of a
We should never revile a brother’s
character behind his back but, rather when
attacked by others, support and defend it.
“Speak no ill of the dead, since they cannot
A Master Mason’s rights and privileges
are to be described in principle and in spirit
rather than in detail. Beyond all specific
duties, rights and privileges, exists a region
in which all are mingled together – the whole
domain of Masonry’s teachings, ritual and
symbols, history, ideals of jurisprudence,
philosophy, literature – the whole Royal Art.
It is his right to be taught that Art, and
have it in its fullness, none of it being reserved
for a privileged few. It is his to enjoy all the
privileges it offers to the spirit, the mind and
heart. All that Freemasonry is, all that it
means, all that it has to give or offer, belongs
to every individual Mason in the same way
and to the same extent as to all others.
However onerous one’s duties may
prove to be, or however rigidly rights may
at times appear to be regulated, such burdens
sink into nothingness by comparison with
this one privilege: that Freemasonry, in all its
height, breadth, length and richness, belongs
to you, to use and enjoy.
With acknowledgement to MSANA: Tried & Proven
– A System of Masonic Instruction
Web site created by Mark Griffin