The work of this Degree is, like that of the Apprentice, preparatory for the advancement to the higher Degree of Master; but it differs essentially in the character and the import of its symbolism. The Apprentice Degree is devoted to a beginner; the Fellow Craft to a more advanced searcher for light. In the first degree the symbols and allegorical ceremonies are directed to the purification of the heart; in this Degree this purification is no less important, but the symbols and ceremonies are directed more chiefly to lessons for the cultivation of the reasoning faculties and the improvement of the intellectual powers.
Among the ancients, all religion was more or less a mystery, and hence religions, and especially the mysteries of religion, were closely associated with philosophy. Among pagans, the multitude of allegories and symbols in in their religions became accepted as realities, and the worship of celestial luminaries; of imaginary deities with human passions, appetites, and lusts; of idols in the form of stones, animals, and reptiles, was the natural result. Hence the emphasis placed upon philosophy, upon intellectual enlightenment, upon advancement in reasoning faculties in order that these tendencies to idolatry might be counteracted. There was innate in the hearts of humanity deep spiritual longings, lofty aspirations after a Living Deity, and a desire for logic in religion. Thus religion joined with Philosophy in the use of symbols to illustrate what could not be explained, to excite an appropriate feeling even where the idea could not be made plain in word, to make the image a subordinate conveyance to right conceptions of moral and spiritual truth. Knowledge was conveyed by symbols, rites and ceremonies were employed to make attractive to the eye truth which was imperfectly comprehended merely through the word.
Masonry, successor to the Mysteries of antiquity, follows these ancient methods of instruction. This becomes more evident in the Ritual, Rites, and Ceremonies of the Fellow Craft Degree. Instruction is given by symbols, similar to the philosophy of the ancient mystics, and there is marked out for the Fellow Craft a path of study, of meditation, of investigation, of intellectual progress, all of which means progress in the search for Truth.
The fundamentals of Masonry which claim for man the threefold heritage of Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity are symbolized and expounded in the Fellow Craft Degree. In these respects Masonry approaches nearer and nearer to the basic teachings of Christianity.
The vows and obligations of the Fellow Craft Degree are, of course, more advanced and extensive than those of the Entered Apprentice Degree. The pledge of secrecy with references to the internal workings of the Institution is broadened and strongly reinforced. Regulations respecting Secret Words are similar to those of the preceding Degree. The endowments and investitures of the Order given in this Degree are to be guarded with inviolate fidelity, and obedience to the tenets and laws of Masonry are exacted with great emphasis.
Having completed the work of the Fellow Craft Degree, the Initiate is now prepared for advancement to the Sublime Degree of a Master Mason, after proving his proficiency in the Degree just completed through the examination, and rigid instructions.