Mark Masonry Today

My last short lecture was an introduction to Mark Masonry, and I would now like to bring it
to date and explaining where we are today.
As I previously mentioned, the Mark Mason degree is one of the most successful Orders of
Freemasonry in England and Wales and is the largest Masonic Order after the Craft and
Royal Arch. Although a separate and independent degree in this country, throughout the
rest of the world the Mark Degree will often retain a traditional connection with the
Antients in that it is part of a group of Masonic Orders. For example, in Scotland the Mark
Degree may be conferred in a Craft Lodge and is seen as a component part of the
Fellowcraft Degree. The degree may also be conferred in a Royal Arch Chapter as a
qualification for progressing to the grade of Excellent Master and then for Exaltation to the
Royal Arch.
In Ireland, the Mark Degree is conferred in a Royal Arch Chapter which makes the Candidate
eligible to become a Royal Arch Mason. This is also the case in the Grand Lodges of
The Ceremony of the Mark Degree takes place in and around King Solomons Temple during
its construction, and is the only Masonic Order, apart from the Operatives, to deal with
actual stonemasons working practices and regulations of the operative Masons. During the
Degree the Candidate chooses a mark by which his work might be known to his Overseer. A
copy of his mark will be inserted in the Register of the Lodge and recorded in the books of
Grand Lodge. It will also be inserted on the Candidates Mark Grand Lodge Certificate and
cannot be changed.
While the main reason for a Mason using his mark was to identify his work, his mark would
also be his signature. In earlier days, when only the high born and clergy were literate, the
design of a Masons mark, usually cut into the stone, was accepted as his signature.
Masonic tradition informs us that, at the building of King Solomons Temple, every Mason
was provided with a mark peculiar to himself, which he placed upon his work in order to
distinguish it from that of his fellows. By the aid of these marks, the Overseers were able to
trace any defective work to the workman concerned.
As it is worked today, the Mark Degree ritual actually covers what used to be two degrees,
the Candidate first being designated a Mark Man and then later he is Advanced as a Mark
Master Mason. In the 1700’s it was the practice to confer the degree of a Mark Man on a
Fellowcraft, and the degree of Mark Master on a Master Mason.
The ceremony of Advancement is based on the preparations for the building of King
Solomons Temple and follows the fate of an ambitious craftsman seeking promotion in his
trade by demonstrating his skill and ability. In the early part of the ceremony, his talents go
unrecognised and his hopes are dashed, but eventually he triumphs over adversity and is
justly rewarded for his work.
It is a ceremony containing elements of drama and humour, particularly if those involved
are theatrically minded, but above all, there are strong moral lessons. A theme to be
considered in the degree is the concept of Masons as living stones being built into a spiritual
house, in parallel with the construction of the Temple.
The degree conveys moral and ethical lessons using allegory based on the building of King
Solomons Temple. The Candidate is required to assume the role of a Fellowcraft and so the
degree is often seen as an extension of the Craft Fellowcraft Degree.
Other themes of the degree include regularity, diligence and discipline. The Second Degree
of Craft Freemasonry encourages learning, and the Mark Degree continues by instructing
how that learning can be most usefully employed for us and the benefit of our fellow man.
The Mark Degree should also be seen as one of hope and encouragement. The ritual is
generally built around a single verse from Psalm 118 of the Sacred Writings which states:
‘The stone which the builders refused is become the headstone of the corner’. Whatever
ones religion there is a clear message of hope, the degree represents the everyday life of
each one of us, for the stone hewn from rough rock depicts us all on our journey through
life and hopefully its final recognition through perfection, this should be the guide to our
conduct in life.
We often hear that Freemasonry should be enjoyed and many will agree that Mark Masonry
is a little more relaxed than some other Masonic Orders, it is fun and that is one reason it is
probably known by many as the Friendly Degree. This is emphasised in the ritual where it
states towards the end of the Ceremony that ‘among Mark Master Masons you will ever
find friends’.

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