A Stroll Through The Seven Liberal Arts and Sciences
By Richard D. Marcus
George Washington Lodge # 337 F&AM, Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin
Throughout our lives, we have heard of the liberal arts and sciences. But until we were presented with them in The Winding Stair lecture, most of us had only a vague notion of what they consisted. The Fellowcraft Degree commends Freemasons to study the Liberal Arts and Sciences, which are grammar, rhetoric, logic, arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy. When we study the historical background for this list, we will uncover layers of Masonic meanings for us in each of the seven areas of knowledge.
Editor's Note: The checkered floor represents a "threshing floor" which is a symbol of discernment (separating wheat from chaff), the first three steps represent the three degrees of Blue Lodge Masonry, the five steps represent the human senses, and the seven steps represent the arts and sciences. All of these are required of Masons to enter the innermost part of Solomon's Temple (or, the human brain/consciousness).
Parts of the original list date back to ancient Greece. By medieval times, the completed list had become central to educators and scholastics. The following remarkable woodblock print symbolically captures the relationship of knowledge to crafts.
This print is German from about AD 1500. It shows a goddess holding a book and a rod. She is called Wisdom or Sophia. The love of wisdom or the "philio of Sophia" is the meaning of the word Philosophy. We see Wisdom’s lifeblood pouring into all of the arts and crafts drawn as young men. All knowledge is united in this illustration. Painters, architects, musicians, and soldiers receive Wisdom.
Proverbs 9:1 says, "Wisdom hath built herself a house, she hath hewn her out seven pillars." Religious scholars have long speculated upon the seven pillars of Wisdom. Wisdom is poured out to seven vocations or callings. Wisdom also is seen presiding over branches of knowledge.
This leads us to a second woodblock print, which also is German from about the same time. This one includes clear words representing the Seven Liberal Arts and Sciences. Once again a book and rod, symbols of a teacher, are held by a three-headed winged Wisdom. She oversees seven maidens.
READ MORE: http://www.masonicworld.com/education/files/artjan02/marcus/sevenliberalartsandsciences.htm