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Masonic Education

The Liberal Arts and Sciences

In the Ancient world the Liberal Arts and Sciences consisted of grammar, rhetoric, dialectic, arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy. Grammar also included the art of memorization.

The Medieval Freemasons were so devoted to the Liberal Arts and Sciences that the Old Constitutions (Cooke manuscript) that were the rules on which a Charter should be given to the Fraternity, used the Polycronicons, or histories of the world, to give prominence to an old legend about two pillars on which the "secrets" of the Arts and Sciences had been preserved through Noah's Flood.

The Freemasons of the Middle Ages, always anxious to elevate their profession above the position of a mere operative art, readily assumed these liberal arts and sciences as a part of their course of knowledge, thus seeking to assimilate themselves rather to the scholars who were above them than to the workmen who were below them. Hence in all the Old Constitutions we find these liberal arts and sciences introduced at the beginning as forming an essential part of the body of Masonry. Thus, in the Landsdowne manuscript, whose date is about 1560, (and it may be taken as a fair specimen of all the others) these sciences are thus referred to:

"We minde to shew you the charge that belongs to every treu Mason to keep, for in good Faith if you take good heed it is well worthy to be kept for A worthy Craft and curious science, --Sirs, there be Seaven Liberall of Masonry (geometry) is one."

It is not therefore surprising that, on the revival of Masonry in 1717, these seven liberal arts and sciences were made a part of the system of instruction. At first , of course, they were placed in the Apprentice's degree, that being the most important degree of the period, and they were made to refer to the seven Masons who composed a Lodge. Afterwards, on the more methodical division of the degrees, they were transferred to the Fellow Craft, because that was the degree symbolic of science, and were made to refer to seven of the steps of the winding stairs, that being itself, when properly interpreted, a symbol of the progress of knowledge. And there they still remain.

Source: Mackey's Encyclopedia of Freemasonry