Advancing to the Altar

Masonic Altar

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.

Masonic Altar

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.

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