The Winding Stairs

Like so much else in Freemasonry the Middle Chamber is wholly symbolic

It seems obvious that Solomon the Wise would not have permitted any practice so time wasting and uneconomic as sending many thousand workmen up a flight of stairs to a small Middle Chamber to receive corn, wine, and oil which had to be brought up in advance, only to be carried down in small lots by each workman as he received his wages.

If we are to accept the Scriptural account of the Temple as accurate, there actually were winding stairs.

‘And they went up with winding stairs into the middle chamber’

is stated in I Kings.

 

That the stairs had the three, five, and seven steps by which we rise is not stated in the Scriptures.

Only in this country have the Winding Stairs fifteen steps. In older days the stairs had but five, sometimes seven steps.

Preston had thirty-six steps in his Winding Stairs in a series of one, three, five, seven, nine, and eleven.

But this violated a Pythagorean principle – and Freemasonry has adopted much in its system from the science of numbers as exemplified by Pythagoras as the Fellowcraft will discover when – if – he receives the Sublime Degree.

The great philosopher Pythagoras taught that odd numbers were more perfect than even; indeed, the temple builders who wrought long before Pythagoras always built their stairs with an odd number of steps, so that, starting with the right foot at the bottom the climber might enter the sacred place at the top with the same foot in advance.

Freemasonry uses only odd numbers, with particular reliance on three: three degrees, three principal officers, three steps, three Lesser Lights, and so on.

Hence the English system later eliminated the number eleven from Preston’s thirty-six, making twenty-five steps in all.

The stairs as a whole are a representation of life; not the physical life of eating, drinking, sleeping and working, but the mental and spiritual life, of both the lodge and the world without; of learning, studying, enlarging mental horizons, increasing the spiritual outlook.

Freemasons divide the fifteen steps into three, referring to the officers of a lodge; five, concerned with the orders of architecture and the human senses; and seven, the Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Article by: Carl H. Claudy

Carl Harry Claudy (1879 – 1957) was an American author, magazine writer, and journalist for the New York Herald.

His association with Freemasonry began in 1908, when, at the age of 29, he was raised a master Mason in lodge Harmony No. 17 in Washington, DC. He served as its master in 1932 and eventually served as Grand Master of Masons in the District of Colombia in 1943.

His Masonic writing career began in earnest when he became associated with the Masonic service Association in 1923, serving as associate editor of its magazine, The master mason, until 1931.

Under his leadership the service Association was brought to a place of predominance through his authorship and distribution of the short talk bulletin which made his name familiar to virtually every lodge in the country.

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