Way of the Hermit

2nd Degree: Fellowcraft

December 07, 2021 Dr. David Brown & Gene Lawson Season 1 Episode 3
Way of the Hermit
2nd Degree: Fellowcraft
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

In this episode, we discuss the 2nd Degree - "Fellowcraft" from "Morals & Dogma: The Annotated Edition". Transcripts, Chapter Markers and Show Notes for all episodes are available from our website - WayOfTheHermit.com.

It is highly recommended that you read the chapter in order to fully follow our discussion.  "Morals and Dogma" is available from these sites: 

The Tracing Board for the degree is available here:


  • Introduction (01:13)
  • The Nature of Symbolism (03:39)
  • The Rough and Smooth Ashlars - Revisted (06:06)
  • Supplemental Reading (07:12)
  • The Fellowcraft Tracing Board (09:01)
  • The Archives of the Lodge (10:53)
  • Number Symbolism (13:18)
  • Conclusions (25:10)

Related Links

Introduction (01:13)

Gene: Hello Dave.

David: Hello Gene.

Gene: Hello fellow travelers.

David: Yes, welcome everyone. In this episode, Gene and I discuss chapter 2 of Albert Pike’s “Morals and Dogma: The Annotated Edition” with annotations by the Grand Archivist and Grand Historian of the Scottish Rite, Arturo de Hoyos. Chapter 2 describes the symbols of the second degree of the Royal Art of Freemasonry - The Fellowcraft. Before we get started today, I'd like to mention that our Show Notes, Chapter Markers and a Transcript of today's episode is available from our website WayoftheHermit.com. As always, it's highly recommended that you read each chapter of “Morals and Dogma” with us. Our discussion in each episode is just that - a discussion. It's not a rehash of the material in the chapter. If you don't already have the book, the show notes contain a link to the book for purchase, also a link to a free pdf version (that version doesn't include annotations though), and a link to an audio version of the book. Gene, you told me you saw a de Hoyos interview about the audio version of “Morals and Dogma”?

Gene: I happened across it and thought it was an interesting introduction to the audio version of the book. He explains how he came to do the Annotated Edition and what's about.

David: I put a link to that interview in the Show Notes. That was from when the audiobook first came out right?

Gene: Yeah. First had a limited-release for Scottish Rite members only. But always, the plan was to release it to the world.

David: Gene and I both bought the audiobook through Audible.

Gene: It's something that we both have and have listened to. It's enjoyable.

David: It is.

Gene: If you like this kind of thing.

David: Or if you suffer from insomnia. I’m mostly joking there. Pike’s subjects are wide ranging. In this chapter, Pike talked about knowledge, power, liberty, equality, duty and justice. The text is just dense with historical and mythological references. It’s wordy, and it’s sometimes hard to follow. The important thing is to see how he’s analyzing these subjects using symbols. 

The Nature of Symbolism (03:39)

Which leads to a question many listeners may have at this point in our discussion - what's with all the symbols?

Gene: That’s how the chapter on the Fellowcraft Degree starts out is the nature of symbolism.

David: So why teach with symbols as opposed to teaching with words?

Gene: Symbolism is a way of connecting with the unconscious part of your brain. It's beyond language. It's pre-language.

David: Yeah. If you just give a definition of something then a lot of times people think they understand it but if you show a symbol the amount you draw out of the symbol is based something on how much you know and what's in your mind. So it is basically a symbiotic (which I guess that's where that the etymology of that word comes from). It pulls those two things together.

Gene: Pike says that it teaches like the ancient mystery shows - it puts out a problem, it doesn't put out a solution for you. It puts out a problem for you to wrestle with, for you to solve.

David: Right. Makes me think about Zen koans. So that's really the main reason for the use of symbols is just to, not to give you an answer but to pose a question that you're supposed to solve yourself.

Gene: Yeah. The first footnote really caught me. Let me read it here for you…

David: OK.

Gene: “Although Freemasonry does not teach the doctrines of the Ancient Mysteries it employs their dramatic and symbiotic method of instruction. It is thus an imperfect image.”

David: Yeah, that's cool. Pike describes the ancient mystery teachings there as symbiotic, and there's also the mirror image theme that we talked about in our last episode.

Gene: That really kind of caught me and stirred up the whole metaphor of the temple being a mirror image of Solomon's Temple. It's a reflection. It's an imperfect image. Which is, I believe, is how we actually see everything. We see things through the filters of our mind. So we all see in imperfect images.

David: And Masonic Labor, I think, is intended to clear up that image.

The Rough and Smooth Ashlars - Revisited (06:06)

Gene: Between the Rough and the Finished Ashlar lies the truth.

David: I've been thinking quite a bit about our discussion last time of the Rough and Smooth Ashlars, especially in relation to the esoteric practice of creating black and white diaries.

Gene: Why don’t you explain what that is Dave.

David: This isn’t a Masonic practice, as far as I’m aware, but some esoteric groups ask initiates to create a “Black Diary” with a true list of the things they’ve done wrong in life and a “White Diary” with all of the good things. Just the process of doing that sets up something in your head. If you contemplate the Rough and Smooth Ashlars, you get the same effect.

Gene: It's a very Masonic way of looking at things you've got your two points of extreme and somewhere you have to find the middle in between. Which is the work.

David: The Masonic labor which you get your just rewards for in this degree. Right? You get paid.

Gene: Earn your wages.

Supplemental Reading (07:12)

David: I've been supplementing my reading of “Morals and Dogma” with a book by Jamie Paul Lamb called “Approaching the Middle Chamber: The Seven Liberal Arts in Freemasonry and the Western Esoteric Tradition” and also two books by W. Kirk McNulty. One is “Freemasonry: A Journey through Ritual and Symbol. The other is “The Way of the Craftsman - A Search For the Spiritual Essence of Craft Masonry”. I’ve linked to these three books in the Show Notes. In our last episode, we discussed the Kabbalistic concept of “zimzung” and the mirror imaging of the Lodge to Solomon's Temple. Here's a quote from page 25 of “The Way of the Craftsman” that I felt pulled together both of those concepts, “God wished to behold God. To this end the boundlessness which is God withdrew from a dimensionless dot to create a void within which something might exist. That something was to be the relative Universe which is the mirror within which God would behold himself.”

Gene: Yeah that’s right out of the Sepher Yetzirah.

David: Let me read one other thing since I've got the book up here.

Gene: Go ahead.

David: This is on page 58 when he's talking about consciousness and the Officers of the Lodge. It says “As the Lodge and its accoutrements represent the structure of the psyche, so the seven Officers would serve within the Lodge represent seven stages of psychological consciousness possible to the incarnate human being.” That's basically the stance that he takes throughout here, is that the Lodge represents your psyche.

Gene: So basically it’s your operating system. It’s your machine code.

The FellowCraft Tracing Board (09:01)

David: That's what the Lodge is supposed to represent on an esoteric level. We touched on this last time we talked about the Tracing Board as a representation of the psyche of the Entered Apprentice. That Tracing Board contained an altar in the center of the Lodge with a ladder extending out of it into heaven. On the altar was the symbol of the dotted circle with vertical lines on either side. If you just zoom in on that symbol you get the Tracing Board of the Fellow Craft. The two lines bounding the circle become the two pillars outside the Lodge. The Metaphysical Ladder of the first-degree has morphed into a winding staircase of 15 Steps divided into 3, 5 and 7 steps which lead to a second story called “The Middle Chamber”. So, Gene, what's the first thing that strikes you about this tracing board?

Gene: Strangely enough, walking through the pillars. It's not mentioned, but in my mind it’s implied that you are the third pillar. It’s a Kabbalistic concept of the two pillars on the left and the right and the middle pillar being yourself.

David: In the “Way of the Craftsman”, McNulty says that the path of the middle pillar is represented on the Fellowcraft Tracing board by the Winding Staircase. It allows you to ascend to the Middle Chamber which represents a higher state of consciousness.

Gene: To me, the pictures of the second degree Tracing Board, the stairs seem to have the illusion of going to infinity, although there is a place that it’s leading to. But it's one of those illusions of “Yes, you're going to the next place”, but it seems like a long and winding journey if you will.

The Archives of the Lodge (10:53)

David: McNulty also says that the two outer pillars serve as repositories of the “Archives of the Lodge”, which are all of our memories which includes those that have been repressed or that remain unconscious.

Gene: Is he saying that the two pillars represent the collective unconscious? Is that what you got from it? I mean is it Jungian in nature?

David:  He compares it to Jungian concepts of the personal unconscious and the collective unconscious and also to Freud’s libido and mortido (sex and death) instincts. Let me read one more quote from that book. “The process of examining one’s repressed memories can be and generally is difficult and painful. Usually there are excellent reasons why the material which must be examined has been excluded from consciousness and recalling it often requires much personal courage. It is the hardest kind of work. It is a process through which the terms “Masonic Labor” can truly be applied and it often requires the loving support of a close and trusted friend. It is in this context that we can begin to understand the bond of brotherly love and mutual trust which Freemasonry seeks to establish among its members.” But you know, Masonic Labor here doesn’t sound like fun.

Gene: Yeah. Dang it Dave.

David: I don’t see how it could be fun. It’s difficult.

Gene: That's the one thing that the overall reading of this chapter throws it back up in my face of “What am I doing to make these ideals work in my life?” It puts my feet to the fire of using the mirror to look in it and go, “OK, what are you doing to advance yourself and advance humankind? What have you done lately?”

David: Yeah.

Gene: One of the statements that I read was that the best thing that Masonry can do is to give the gift of manhood to you. You’ve gotta go back and dig through the things that have brought you to this point and then you must move on. Thusly, you become a man. You become the master of your own Temple if you will.

Number Symbolism (13:18)

David: We talked about the nature of symbolism and another important topic in this chapter was number symbolism. And again people may wonder what's up with these lists of numbers?

Gene: Within any system of learning you have to learn the language of the land. And by learning colors, numbers, references, you build up a library of meaning in your head that you can converse with others of the same learning.

David: A vocabulary.

Gene. A vocabulary.

David: The Pythagoreans said that “All is Number”. I’ve got a few quotes here from Carl Jung from Volume 2 of his “Letters”. It’s from a paper that I have linked in with the Show Notes. Jung says that “the unconscious somehow avails itself of the properties of whole numbers”. That numbers are “presumably the fundamental archetypes, being the matrix of all others” and that it is a “worthy task for a mathematician to collect all the known properties of the numbers… which should be quite possible up to 10 and in this way project a biological picture of whole numbers.” So, to follow Jung’s advice and Pike’s example we’re going to walk through the numbers from 1 to 12 and talk a little about the symbolism of each number. So, One…

Gene … Is the loneliest number.

David: Yes… and…

Gene: One is the Monad. The All. The point from which we all begin.

David: Anything unitive. One thing that has no opposite. That's a reason why only negative attributes can be given to the Deity, because it has no other.

Gene: Correct. If God is omnipresent and omnipotent, there is no thing which is not God.

David: Right. That would be the truth of real Monism. That quote in Isaiah, “That they may know from the rising of the sun to its setting that there is none besides me. I am the Lord and there is no other. I form the light and create darkness. I make peace and create calamity. I the Lord do all these things.” That is a statement of Monism. Right?

Gene: “There is no Dana, only Zuul!”

David: There you go. That’s the equivalent. What about Two?

Gene: That goes back to what I was talking about of dialectic - you and not me. It's “I and Thou”, to quote to Buber. That’s your first realization of your separateness, your own division from the One.

David: That would be the beginning of the creation of your consciousness…

Gene: Yes.

David:  … and any kind of duality - yin and yang, positive-negative, two poles of a magnet. When you’ve got two…

Gene: Laverne & Shirley.

David: Lenny and Squiggy?

Gene: Joanie and Chachi. We should stop now.

David: Yeah. Please. Three. What about Three?

Gene: Three is the beginning of coming back together and realizing that the Two can be One.

David: I would think… father, mother and son or daughter or the combination of those Two into something new.

Gene: Father, Son, Holy Ghost.

David: Three terms like the Three columns or the Three Officers. In the first chapter Pike uses Mercury to symbolize the mediating force between the Sun and the Moon. But basically, it’s any mediating force. Three symbolizes the mediating force between two apparent opposites.

Gene: The point of balance. It’s the point where there is stability between the poles.

David: Yeah. What about Four? What do you think of Four?

Gene: Four is the beginning of the cube. It’s the square.

David: Stability.

Gene: Stability? Yeah, because if you think of four points, you can split those points and you have two triangles. So it's almost the doubling of the stability of the triangle.

David: Also the four seasons, the four elements, the four gospels. It seems to represent a completion of sorts. What about Five?

Gene: The Pentagram. The four points of the cardinal ways and the fifth being the spirit of the man.

David: So you can see that as a symbol of Man. The spirit ruling over the four elements. The Pentagram is also sometimes called the “Star of David”. It was the symbol of the Pythagorean Brotherhood and its geometry embodies the Golden Mean. So, it also symbolises the perfection of nature. So, Gene. What about number Six? What do you think of when you think of Six?

Gene: Six actually again refers back to two triangles put together forming the six-rayed star.

David: That's the hexagram. I think of the hexagram as the “Seal of Solomon” and the pentagram as the “Star of David” but I know many people think of that as the reverse. Because the six-rayed star is the union of an upward pointing and a downward-pointing triangle, it's also used as a symbol for marriage or the sacred marriage, the union of Heaven and Earth.

Gene: The mediating point between that which is above and that which is below. That is the union thereof.

David: Now we come to the number Seven. In the chapter, Pike lists quite a few references to the number Seven, wouldn’t you say Gene?

Gene: Indeed. He just starts and just goes on forever. But it is one of those numbers which Western Hermeticism is built on. I mean, the Seven ancient planets, the Seven rays that come out from a prism, the Seven visible colors.

David: I would say the Seven Officers of the Lodge correspond to those Seven rays of light. Seven is an important number in the physics of light and music.

Gene: Seven. Seven is one of those you can go, “It's a mystery.”

David: Kabbalah and other mystical systems teach that just like light and sound, every phenomenon consists of Seven parts and that these Seven parts can be symbolically associated with the Seven Ancient Planets. So you might map Seven different stages of consciousness in a person, or Officers in a Lodge, or Seven modes of operation in any kind of living system.

Gene: Seven chakras. It goes on and on. So it's truly a mystery of - the universe works through Sevens.

David: OK. Let's move on. I don't have that much to say about Eight or Nine. I know we have Ten and Twelve coming up. For Eight, I think of two squares.

Gene: Two squares or a cube.

David: What about Nine?

Gene: Again, Nine seems to be a compilation. I go back to the triangle. The Three. It’s Three times three. The Three stages of life.

David: It’s the Three stages divided into its own Three stages. Right?

Gene: Yes.

David: And that just follows from the idea that you could divide everything into Three parts. So you could do that with anything. You could divide it into Three parts and then divide those Three parts, and on and on. So now we come to another important number in the esoteric tradition, Ten.

Gene: Hold out your hands. There you are. Again another mystery of how the universe is. Ten fingers. Ten toes. Ten Sephiroth.

David: Having Ten fingers probably accounts for our use, or the use of most human cultures, of the decimal system. In the decimal system when you reach Ten then, because there's only Ten symbols, you have to start back over with One. So you complete one round and begin another. So, Ten has come to signify completion.

Gene: It’s something that's natural, that is a part of us. It seems to have a completeness feel to it. And then you can't think of Ten without thinking of the Pythagorean Tetractys.

David: And the Kabbalistic Tree of Life.

Gene: To me, it’s the Pythagorean representation of the Tree of Life. It's one of those images that the more you stare at it the more it unfolds. It's kind of like a mini hologram. There's a lot of meaning that can be packed into it or extracted from it.

David: OK. I'm going to skip Eleven and go on to the last number that we're going to look at, and the last one that Pike did, Twelve.

Gene: When I look at Twelve you’ve got the numbers One and Two. You add them together you have Three. You look at it - you’ve got the division and the unity and the whole “Three is One and One is All.”

David: That’s a good use of, uh, what is that called the “Al Beker”?

Gene: “Aiq Beker.”

David: That's called the “Kabbalah of Nine Chambers”. It's where you add all the digits of the number until you reach a single digit and that's supposed to represent the essence of that number. What else?

Gene: With the Twelve, you’ve got the Twelve months. The Twelve disciples. You’ve got Twelve of the stones of the breastplate of the High Priest.

David: The Zodiac.

Gene: Yeah, the Zodiac.

David: It’s Three times Four. Because that's how the zodiac is divided up, With Three being the Cardinal, Fixed and Mutable and then the Four elements.

Gene: With the Zodiac, what that is representation of is the year, and the seasons and the changes that happen around you. Something that we're very divorced of in our Modern Age. That was the means for the representation of the moods, sensations, things that seem to happen around you according to a certain “Wheel of the Year”.

David: I noticed on the Tracing Board, the Middle Chamber has Twelve smaller chambers or divisions at the top of the staircase. There are Six on one side and Six on the other. So, the 12 Zodiac signs represent something inside yourself. Just as the seven officers are seven states of consciousness according to McNulty. These Twelve then are Twelve processes or something…

Gene:  Twelve states of being…

David: That the seven planets, the states of consciousness move through. This, and all the other ideas that we've been discussing here are accessible through the use of number symbolism. You can choose any number and use it as a lens to examine something and find that corresponding number parts. Number symbolism is worthy of study because the archetypes of numbers appear to lie at the core of human consciousness. And that’s where we’ll stop our discussion of number symbolism for now.

Conclusions (25:10)

David: Gene, what else did you think about while reading, or as a result of reading this chapter?

Gene: Something that I ran across on page 110. I came across this statement of, “All truths are truths for a period of time and not truths for eternity.” I thought like - “What?”. But he went on to talk about that truths are revealed as people are able to receive them. And that periods change, people change, times change. So it brought up to me it's like, “OK, What am I, or you, capable of receiving?” You know, what is anyone? We talked about “What is the myth”? A myth is a truth that reoccurs. So that made me think of some of the stories and allegories that we've heard and you know, is that truth trying to get through? And it’s “Pearls Before Swine”, if you will. But it brings into question on a personal level - what am I capable of receiving? What can I do to receive more light?
David: Well, I'd say first you have to be open to it. You have to realize that you may not know everything.

Gene: One of the things that stuck out to me was he said education is being able to accept new points of view and to be able to sacrifice your static point of view. 

David: That's the only way to learn. 

Gene: And you should continue to learn new things and continue to grow. And I think that's one of the main points is that you don't just read the stuff and then you're good to go. It's a work. You’ve got to continue to work, dig, think and apply the principles to your own everyday life.

David: That's the only way they have any real worth.

Gene: Another point that kind of popped up to me was, “Our actions, however minor, live after us”. And in his own way, he came up with what we now call “The Butterfly Effect”. You never know what little thing that you do could cause a cascade of things to follow after it. So, in other words, you have to be mindful and practice living well at all times, even when no one's watching. You must practice Yoga of your mind. 

David: Which I think that's ultimately what Masonry is. It’s showing you a model of your mind. Or of the place where you can exert your free will. In your mind you can be free. And a lot of the things that he talks about… tyranny… people externalized those things. I mean that real tyranny is inside of us.

Gene: He's talking both external and internal but I think that's something that is, that is often lost It's hard to pick up that heavy mirror and hold it in front of you and go, “Oh, there's the tyrant.” The other point that stuck out to me was, “Sovereignty over self is liberty.” Internal Kung Fu.

David: In some ways I feel like we've gone off the rails with his podcast as far as veering away from just what was in the chapter of “Morals and Dogma.” 

Gene: It's hard to hold to just reading the chapter on Pike because it makes me want to reference other things. It makes me want to pull out my Manly P. Hall books and take different perspectives on it. 

David: That's what I would say, too. It’s like, I could not stay just within the confines of that chapter because it really does start you thinking about the symbolism of it. Which led me to those other books.

Gene: That's what happens when I actually dig down and read his work. It spins me off in a multitude of directions and stimulates thought. It's not contained by the chapters of the book. It stimulates us to have good conversations.

David: (sigh) So… what else Gene?

Gene: I was going to say - did we kind of bring it back between the rails with that.

David: I think so. I'm willing to cut it off right now if you don't have anything else to add.

Gene: OK.

David: I really enjoyed the chapter.

Gene: I did, too. I actually wound up reading it three or four times going back and back and catching different points and stimulating different ideas.

David: OK. Well, I guess that’s it.

Gene: In our next episode, we’ll look at the third degree of Master Mason. 

David: So, I'm David.

Gene: And I'm Gene. 

David: Join us next time as we continue our exploration of “Morals and Dogma: The Annotated Edition”.

Gene: As we walk the Way of the Hermit 

The Nature of Symbolism
The Rough and Smooth Ashlars - Revisted
Supplemental Reading
The Fellowcraft Tracing Board
The Archives of the Lodge
Number Symbolism