The first degree lecture tells us that the E- A- degree is intended symbolically to represent the entrance of man into the world in which he is afterwards to become a living and thinking factor. It is not until the ( ?) receives the second degree lecture that he is told of the second of the two great Ps – one on the left of the entrance of the T – and one on the right, and he learns of the W-S, consisting of three, five and seven steps.
Symbolically, he leaves the outer world of ignorance and darkness when he passes those Ps and begins his Masonic life by ascending the first three steps of the W -So. In all three degrees the (?) is instructed how to advance to the altar. These steps are full of symbolism.
In the first degree, the (?) is instructed to advance to the altar by three irregular steps of about 15, 12 and 9 inches respectively. Later he is told that these steps were necessarily irregular, he not knowing where he was going. To the thoughtful Mason, these three steps have great depth of meaning.
“3” in ancient symbolism meant God and in Christian symbolism means the Deity. It serves to remind the (?) of his search for light from T-G-A-O-T-U-, as well as to remind him of the first three steps of the W-S-.
The sides of a right angled triangle are in the ratio of 3, 4 and 5. The operative Mason, in laying out the ground for the intended structure, used the line from his skirret around stakes placed in the ground at points A, B and C in such a way that the distances between A and B, B and C, and C and A were 15, 12 and 9 feet respectively. This assured him of square corners for his structure even on rough ground. As these were the first steps employed by the Operative Mason in laying out the ground for the intended structure, it seems fitting that these values should represent the first steps of the (?) in laying out the foundation for his Masonic structure.
In the second degree, the (?) is instructed to advance to the altar by five steps, which he is later told refer to the second group of steps in the W-S-; to the five noble orders of architecture and to the five human senses.
Referring to the 47th problem of the first book of Euclid, we have assumed that the “5” side of the triangle represents SELF or DUTY TO SELF. This degree, then, represents man trying to improve himself by extending his researches into the hidden mysteries of nature and science.
In the third degree, the (?) is instructed to advance to the altar by seven steps, or, symbolically, to ascend the last series of seven steps to the W -S-. These seven steps are split into two groups of three and four, thus connecting us with the sides of the right-angled triangle. The three and four enclosing the right angle of the triangle might be interpreted to teach the (?) that he is to cooperate with God in living aright, so that he may be properly prepared for the closing hour of his existence -that he may live respected and die regretted.
Thus, the steps to the altar in all three degrees are closely tied to our right-angled triangle as a constant reminder that what we are seeking for in Freemasonry is to maintain a proper balance of our duties to GOD, to our NEIGHBOURS and to OURSELVES.
In the trial after the OB in the third degree, the (?) will recall the position he assumed in his contacts with the Rs. After his contact with the first R, he was forced to his L-K-, reminding him of his OB as an E-A-.
After his contact with the second R, he was forced to his R-K-, reminding him of his OB as a F-C-. It will, therefore, be seen that the positions he assumed in these contacts were intended to impress his OBs upon him and to remind him that they should be considered as very essential parts of his future Masonic life.
By W. Bro. F. M. Driscoll
Presented at The University Lodge, No. 84, March 11th, 1950.