The Symbolism of Freemasonry, full text at sacred-texts. The Symbolism of Freemasonry: XXVI. The Legend of the Winding Stairs. Before proceeding to the examination of those more important mythical legends which appropriately belong to the Master’s degree, it will not, I think, be unpleasing or uninstructive to consider the only one which is attached to the Fellow Craft’s degree–that, namely, which refers to an essay on the origin of freemasonry allegorical ascent of the Winding Stairs to the Middle Chamber, and the symbolic payment of the workmen’s wages.
Out of this slender material has been constructed an allegory, which, if properly considered in its symbolical relations, will be found to be of surpassing beauty. Masonry, is anything more than a magnificent philosophical myth. Let us inquire into the true design of this legend, and learn the lesson of symbolism which it is intended to teach. In the investigation of the true meaning of every masonic symbol and allegory, we must be governed by the single principle that the whole design of Freemasonry as a speculative science is the investigation of divine truth.
To this great object everything is subsidiary. The Mason is, from the moment of his initiation as an Entered Apprentice, to the time at which he receives the full fruition of masonic light, an investigator–a laborer in the quarry and the temple–whose reward is to be Truth. All the ceremonies and traditions of the order tend to this ultimate design. Is there light to be asked for?
It is the intellectual light of wisdom and truth. Is there a word to be sought? That word is the symbol of truth. Is there a loss of something that had been promised? That loss is typical of the failure of man, in the infirmity of his nature, to discover divine truth. Is there a substitute to be appointed for that loss?
It is an allegory which teaches us that in this world man can only approximate to the full conception of truth. Hence there is in Speculative Masonry always a progress, symbolized by its peculiar ceremonies of initiation. There is an advancement from a lower to a higher state–from darkness to light–from death to life–from error to truth. The teaching of the Divine Master is, in respect to this continual progress, the teaching of Masonry–“No man having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of heaven. And similar to this is the precept of Pythagoras: “When travelling, turn not back, for if you do the Furies will accompany you. Now, this principle of masonic symbolism is apparent in many places in each of the degrees.