The Fellowcraft Degree exhorts us to study the Seven Liberal Arts but for most Freemasons this is something they have never heard of, let alone studied.
Why ‘seven’, why ‘liberal’, why ‘arts’?
We have briefly introduced this subject in an earlier edition of The Square Magazine [linked below] but it is something that is equally important to the modern Mason as it was to those in antiquity.
What many people do not realise that instead of the liberal arts being only for the elite or wealthy, they are areas of study that we can apply in our every day life.
To keep things simple, we have found three very useful videos presented by Dr Christopher Perrin on the Classical Academic Press YouTube channel [linked below].
What we know as the liberal arts (artes liberales) date back over two thousand years, to classical antiquity.
In ancient Greece, free men were expected to have at least a basic education in the study of humanities, mathematics and science.
The women were taught more physical pursuits such as dancing, singing and playing musical instruments – it was believed that these arts complemented the more logical, scientific side of the male learnings.
Later, in the Middle Ages, these teachings became more widely known as the ‘Seven Liberal Arts’ (septem artes liberales) being:
A useful mnemonic to remember the arts was devised (of which there are several versions):
Lingua, tropus, ratio, numerus, tonus, angulus, astra.
Gram. loquiter, Dia. vera docet, Rhe. verba colorat
Mu. canit, Ar. numerat, Geo. ponderat, Ast. colit astra.
Grammar talks, Dialectic teaches truth, Rhetoric colours words,
Music sings, Arithmetic numbers, Geometry weighs, Astronomy tends the stars.
Today, educational institutes still teach a Liberal Arts Education which is defined as:
‘the traditional academic program in Western higher education. Liberal arts generally covers three areas: sciences, arts, and humanities. Its central academic disciplines include philosophy, logic, linguistics, literature, history, political science, sociology, and psychology. Liberal arts education can refer to studies in a liberal arts degree program or to a university education more generally. Such a course of study contrasts with those that are principally vocational, professional, or technical.’
Why ‘seven’ ?
By Herrad of Landsberg – Hortus deliciarum,
IMAGE LINKED: wikimedia Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
The image ‘Philosophy and seven liberal arts’ represents the circle of philosophy, and is presented as a rosette of a cathedral: a central circle and a series of semicircles arranged all around.
It shows learning and knowledge organised into seven relations, the Septem Artes Liberales or Seven Liberal Arts.
Each of these arts find their source in the Greek φιλοσοφία, philosophia, literally ‘love of wisdom’.
St. Albert the Great, a doctor of the Catholic Church, asserted that the seven liberal arts were referred to in Sacred Scripture, saying:
‘It is written, “Wisdom hath built herself a house, she hath hewn her out seven pillars” (Proverbs 9:1). This house is the Blessed Virgin; the seven pillars are the seven liberal arts’.
What are the Seven Liberal Arts?
Now, why ‘liberal’? It is not quite what we would expect from today’s usage of the word ‘liberal’ within politics. It begins with tree bark…
When we think of an ‘art’ we think of things that are creative or ‘made’. But the root of the terminology is somewhat more complex…
We hope that has given you an idea of what the seven liberal arts are.
This is just the beginning of a series of articles that will help you make an advancement in your Masonic knowledge, for use in every day life.
All videos are featured on the Classical Academic Press YouTube channel.
Seven Liberal Arts and Sciences
A Stroll Through the Seven Liberal Arts and Sciences
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.
The Square Magazine June 2020 Issue
Approaching the Middle Chamber:
The Seven Liberal Arts in Freemasonry & the Western Esoteric Tradition
by Jaime Paul Lamb, Jason Marshall, Matthew Anthony
In the culmination of the second section of the Fellowcraft degree, prior to entering the symbolic “middle chamber” of King Solomon’s Temple, the Craftsman must ascend a flight of winding stairs, where important lessons are bestowed upon the Craftsman for future reflection and study.
Unfortunately, few Craftsman have undertaken the study of the Seven Liberal Arts and Sciences, perhaps due to the fact that prior to this book by Brother Lamb, few books have taken an in-depth look at the Seven Liberal Arts and Sciences.
This is a well-written, well-researched, and very approachable book that explores how the Seven Liberal Arts and Sciences relate to Freemasonry, as well as other esoteric traditions.
This book is an instant classic, and a must read for anyone who has tread upon the flight of winding stairs to the middle chamber.
The Liberal Arts of Logic, Grammar, and Rhetoric
by Sister Miriam Joseph, Marguerite McGlinn
Who sets language policy today? Who made whom the grammar doctor? Lacking the equivalent of l’Académie française, we English speakers must find our own way looking for guidance or vindication in source after source.
McGuffey’s Readers introduced nineteenth-century students to “correct” English. Strunk and White’s Elements of Style and William Safire’s column, “On Language,” provide help on diction and syntax to contemporary writers and speakers.
Sister Miriam Joseph’s book, The Trivium: The Liberal Arts of Logic, Grammar, and Rhetoric, invites the reader into a deeper understanding—one that includes rules, definitions, and guidelines, but whose ultimate end is to transform the reader into a liberal artist.
A liberal artist seeks the perfection of the human faculties. The liberal artist begins with the language arts, the trivium, which is the basis of all learning because it teaches the tools for reading, writing, speaking, and listening.
Thinking underlies all these activities. Many readers will recognize elements of this book: parts of speech, syntax, propositions, syllogisms, enthymemes, logical fallacies, scientific method, figures of speech, rhetorical technique, and poetics.
The Trivium, however, presents these elements within a philosophy of language that connects thought, expression, and reality.
Trivium: The Classical Liberal Arts of Grammar, Logic, & Rhetoric
The trivium refers to the three liberal arts considered in classical Greece to be the pillars of critical thought: grammar, logic, and rhetoric.
Following on the success of Quadrivium and Sciencia, Trivium gathers six Wooden Books titles together into a beautiful six-color package that presents ancient wisdom in an accessible way. Trivium will include the books Euphonics, Grammar, Logic, Rhetoric, Poetic Meter and Form, and Ethics.
Wooden Books was founded in 1999 by designer John Martineau near Hay-on-Wye. The aim was to produce a beautiful series of recycled books based on the classical philosophies, arts and sciences.
Using the Beatrix Potter formula of text facing picture pages, and old-styles fonts, along with hand-drawn illustrations and 19th century engravings, the books are designed not to date.
Small but stuffed with information. Eco friendly and educational. Big ideas in a tiny space.