WM, RW, WBB and BB all, I recently read a paper, entitled ‘The Wages of an Entered Apprentice’1 (the “Paper”). The Paper concluded that the wages of an EA are Corn, Wine and Oil. Since, according to conventional teachings on the Tracing Board of the Second Degree, the wages of the FC are also Corn, Wine and Oil, what the Paper proposes is that, essentially, there is no difference between the wages received by an EA and a FC.
Given that studying is the most important virtue of the FC, curiosity got the better of me and I questioned whether the conclusion drawn in the Paper was indeed correct.
At this juncture I should point out that, I approached the question and my analysis of the Paper with the greatest respect to the author of the Paper, who is a PM. However, since modern Freemasonry is a free art, and I am free to speculate, I present my conclusion on the question to you my Brethren, as a PM of this Lodge would say, as my humble opinion.
The First and Second Degree Rituals
The starting point in the analysis of the question, in my view, should be the Rituals of the First and Second Degrees.
As far as I am aware, there is no mention in either of the Rituals of the First and Second Degrees of the wages payable to, respectively, an EA or a FC, other than the place where the wages are received by them. In the First Degree Ritual it is said that the EA receives his wages at the Column B….2 The FC, according to the Second Degree Ritual, receives his wages at the Column J……3
In my opinion, the wording of neither of the Rituals is therefore helpful in resolving the question. However, as we have come to learn, the words and signs used in the Rituals are pregnant with allegories and esoteric meanings. To this end, we are by and large dependent on the knowledge of the Craft as it has been communicated and carried forward since antiquity.
Based on conventional teachings on the symbols of the Tracing Board of the Second Degree, we are told that the wages of the FC comprise Corn, Wine and Oil.
Accepting this as a given, I would suggest that we consider whether the words “Corn”, “Wine” and “Oil” bear any meaning other than its ordinary meaning? If so, does it assist in any way resolving the main question? That is, whether it is any different in the wages received by an EA?
Meaning of “Corn”, “Wine” and “Oil”
Since antiquity, we have understood the wages, Corn, Wine and Oil, to be symbolic of the results in spiritual or mental qualities of work done by the spirit in the lower natures.
Corn is the result of work performed on the ground, seeding, cultivating, harvesting, etc. The ground, we are told, symbolises the lower natures, the personality. Corn also represents nourishment, resurrection and the sustenance of life. It is also a symbol of plenty, and refers to the opportunity for doing good, to work for the community, and to the performance of service to mankind.
Since Corn grows above the ground, it is argued that the qualities represented by Corn are higher than the ground. Thus, Corn symbolises the result in developed qualities for work done in the lower natures. In other words, they are mental qualities.
Apart from being symbolic of refreshment, health, spirituality and peace, Wine is also a symbol of wisdom, usually spiritual wisdom, and used as such in ancient symbolic writings, including the Bible. As spiritual wisdom, it symbolises the wisdom which the soul (candidate) will develop as a result of his labours.
Oil represents joy, gladness and happiness and was used as a symbol of love.
Together, Corn, Wine, and Oil represent the temporal rewards of living a good life. That being said, the actual “wages”, it is submitted, are the intangible, but no less real, compensation for a faithful and intelligent use of the Working Tools, fidelity to your obligations, and untiring interest in and study of the structure, purpose and possibilities of the Craft. Such wages, it is held, may be defined in terms of a deeper understanding of brotherhood, a clearer conception of ethical living, a broader toleration, and a more resolute will to think justly, independently and honestly.4
Given that these are known wages given to a FC, on what basis could it then be argued that an EA does not receive the same?
On what basis could it be argued that the EA does not receive Corn, Wine and Oil as wages?
Firstly, if one simply considers the history of labour practices, we are told that, two or three centuries ago the conditions of labour were as firm as they are today. A Master could not employ more than a certain number of Apprentices. Often, it is said, the number was restricted to one.
When employed as an Apprentice, you were bound to serve your Master for a period of seven years.
It was also not uncommon for the Apprentice to go into residence with his Master and, as a consequence, during the early years of his apprenticeship received no remuneration except board and lodging. Only when he became a journeyman, or FC, and was free from the Master who had taught him his trade, was he entitled to wages in the form of cash.5
In modern day Freemasonry, as an initiated FC, we are reminded that we are out of the bonds of Apprenticeships and that we are henceforth the equivalent of one of the Free Companions or Fellows of the Craft, who journeyed the countries of medieval Europe, erecting cathedrals and other stately buildings, learning meanwhile to give increasingly skilful and intelligent labour under the direction of a Master.6
The labour practices of antiquity, in my humble opinion, support the contention that a Stone Mason was only really in a position to demand wages once he was properly qualified and able to provide skilled labour. As an Apprentice, you were not in any position to provide labour for hire other than the duties performed under your Master’s supervision. It is arguable, whether, if paid a wage as an Apprentice, you would have received Corn, Wine and Oil.
Secondly, if one considers the directives given to the EA and the FC, in my opinion, a very clear distinction could be drawn between the rewards received for their labours.
Considering the journeys of the EA, we are told that it signifies an increase in knowledge.7 To the question: “At what do the Apprentice work?”, the answer is: “At the Rough Stone, the symbol of the imperfections of the mind and the heart.”8
In the Second Degree, we are told the purpose of the journeys is to exercise the FC’s powers, thus enabling him to become a better workman.9 To the question: “At what do the Fellow-Crafts work?”, the answer is: “At the cubic stone the symbol of the culture of the mind and heart.”10
Given that the work of the EA is to increase his knowledge and work on his imperfections, it is submitted that, the EA is not as spiritually evolved as the FC. If one, furthermore, accept that the wages (ie Corn, Wine and Oil) were of a spiritual nature, suitable only to the more evolved spirituality of the FC, the EA could not have received the same wage. This could further be supported by the fact that the FC receives his wages in the Middle Chamber, at the top of the Winding Stairs.11
Furthermore, it is said that it is compulsory that the wages be paid at the top of the Winding Stairs since the results of labour are not observable until after the labour is done. Wages are, therefore, not paid until the work is finished, which in this instance symbolises the development gained by the spirit in its ascent of the three, five and seven steps of the Winding Stairs which represent the work in the lower natures.12
It is further held that, given a FC’s responsibilities, a FC is entitled to a just reward physically and spiritually. The wages of Corn, Wine and Oil thus proves that the labourer is worthy of his hire.13
Based on these submissions, in my opinion, it could be argued that, since Corn, Wine and Oil were only paid at the top of the Winding Stairs, the wage the EA receives cannot be said to be Corn, Wine and Oil.
What does the EA receive as a Wage?
Again, in my humble opinion, similar to the FC, the EA’s wage is also tangible. According to the First Degree Ritual, the EA receives his wage at the Column B…. There is no indication in the Ritual of what the wage comprises. However, considering that the word B… means, amongst others, “source of strength”14 , in my view, it could be argued that the EA’s wage comprises mere Strength, which the EA in turn employs to chip away at the imperfections of the mind and heart, until such time as he is worthy to pass to the Second Degree.
In modern Freemasonry, the EA may unknowingly share in the abundance of the Corn, Wine and Oil with which our Lodge was blessed during consecration. However, in my opinion, the EA does not have the luxury and, perhaps more importantly, the gratitude (read knowledge) of sharing in the wages paid to the FC.
1 By RW William Harvey, PM of Lodge Progress Dundee No. 967, Dundee: T.M. Sparks, Crosswell Works, 1919 2 Question 40 of the Catechism in the First Degree Ritual 3 Question 25 of the Catechism in the Second Degree Ritual 4 Prentiss Tucker, ‘Lost Key, An Explanation of Masonic Symbols’ at 84; ‘A Basic Masonic Education Course: The Fellocraft’, a publication of the Grand Lodge Masonic Education Committee, Grand Lodge F. & A.M. of California 5 William Harvey, ‘The Wages of an Entered Apprentice’ (refer footnote 1) 6 Section 3.1, ‘The Guide to the Fellowcraft’, A Basic Introduction to Freemasonry and the Grand Lodge of South Africa (the so-called ‘Book of Life’) 7 Answer to Question 22 of the Catechism in the First Degree Ritual 8 Question 39 of the Catechism in the First Degree Ritual 9 Answer to Question 12 of the Catechism in the Second Degree Ritual 10 Question 23 of the Catechism in the Second Degree Ritual 11 JSM Ward, ‘The FC’s Handbook’ 12 Prentiss Tucker, ‘Lost Key, An Explanation of Masonic Symbols’ at 84 13 Vernon E. Quay, ‘Corn, Wine and Oil: The Wages of a Fellowcraft’ an extract from Royal Arch Mason 1980 14 Albert Pike, Chapter 1: Apprentice in ‘Morals and Dogma’ (from Pietre-Stones Review of Freemasonry, accessed at http://www.freemasons-freemasonry.com)
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