Prudence & Seven Chains
Prudence. As defined in Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary,
- The ability to govern and discipline oneself by the use of reason.
- Sagacity or shrewdness in the management of affairs.
- Skill and good judgment in the use of resources.
- Caution or circumspection as to danger or risk.
Prudence. As defined in “Lexicon of Freemasonry” by Albert G. Mackey (1908)
One of the four cardinal virtues, the practice of which is inculcated upon the Entered Apprentice, Prudence, which, in all men, is a virtue highly to be commended, as to teaching them to live agreeably to the dictates of reason, and preserving to them by its cautious precepts the realities of temporal welfare, and the hopes of eternal happiness, is to the Mason absolutely necessary, that being governed by it, he may carefully avoid the least occasion, by sign or word, of communicating to the profane those important secrets which should be locked up only in the repository of faithful breasts. Hence is this virtue, in the lecture in the first Degree, intimately connected with and pointedly referred to, a most important part of our ceremonies of initiation.
Prudence. As defined in Webster’s New Complete Thesaurus,
- A quality in a person that allows him to choose the sensible course.
Synonyms; are canniness, caution, discreetness, discretion, foresight, forethought, precaution, providence.
You may wonder why I have gone to such lengths to show the definition of this word, well I have done so from the position that, while it is not common in daily use, it is widely used in our rituals, and as such we all need to be very aware of how we, as Masons, are committed to act.
The Seven Chains on a Master Mason Apron (author unknown)
This is a bit academic, however it is pertinent and I do hope you enjoy the read.
Seven is a sacred number in Masonic symbolism. In the Rituals of the last century, it was said that a Lodge required seven to make it perfect, but the only explanation to be found of the sacredness is the seven liberal arts and sciences, which according to the old “Legend of the Craft” were the foundation of Masonry.
In modern ritual, the symbolism of the number seven has been transferred from the first to the second Degree, where it refers to the seven steps of the winding staircase, but the symbolic seven is to be found diffused in hundreds of ways over the whole Masonic system.
In our Ritual, the ascent of the seven steps is symbolical of the seven liberal arts and sciences. But the seven steps have deeper meaning. They allude to the vibrations producing colour and sound. There are seven colours in the spectrum, of which three are called “Primary”. There are seven notes in the musical scale. Thus, it is said to be a harmonic number, three of which compose the principal chord of the key. The musical scale completely bears out the creative process of evolution. When the scale is played, we ascend to a higher scale, at a higher rate of vibration, and repeat (continue to do what has been done). Herein may be hidden the significance for the lecture urging “a study of Music”.
The sun was the great central planet of the ancient seven, and is represented as the central light in the branched candlestick. The moon is second only to the sun in beauty and splendour, and on every seventh day the moon assumes a new phase. In the Hebrew, Syrian, Phoenician, Chaldaen and Saxon “seven” signifies “full or complete” and every seventh day after the first quarter the moon is complete in its change.
Jacob’s Ladder was a prominent symbol in the early days of symbolic Masonry. The number of rungs was generally seven, namely, Temperance; Fortitude; Prudence; Justice; Faith; Hope & Charity.
Other references to the potency of the number seven include, for example, seven sacred planets, seven days in creation, and seven ages in the life of man. The seventh son of a seventh son was a notable person indeed. Among the Hebrews, every seventh year was Sabbatical. The stories of the Biblical characters often turn up the number seven. Finally it is said that from the ancient in the sacredness of this number “sprang the theory that man was composed of seven substances and seven natures.