The Winding Stairs
by Bro. H.T.J. Coleman, Mount Newton Lodge No. 89
The legend of the winding stairs is an important tradition of Antient Craft
Masonry and it has its origin in 1 Kings, Chap. 6.
“The door for the middle chamber was on the right side of the house; and
they went up with winding stairs into the middle chamber, and out of the
middle into the third.”
It is more than just a legend, however, it is an impressive allegory as well
It suggests the progress of youth upward from childhood to full manhood,
and it speaks also of the ascent of the initiate towards a fuller revelation of
The growth of humanity from savagery through barbarism to what we call
“civilization” has been a slow and painful process, and is, as we know, far
from completed. It is one of the glories of Freemasonry that it seeks to
indicate symbolically the goals towards which that future growth may aspire.
In many ways the life of the race resembles the life of the individual human
being. The savage, like the child, looks out upon only a very small world.
Though he has a very lively curiosity, that curiosity is circumscribed both
by his limited powers and his narrow circumstances. He knows little of the
Arts and Sciences and aspires to little beyond today’s needs.
With the discovery of the arts of reading and writing, the horizon of man’s
mind was vastly enlarged. Later, in the early centuries of the Christian era,
human learning was given a classic form under the name of the Seven
Of these the first three, Grammar, Rhetoric, and Logic were
the key to the understanding and use of languages; and the last four,
Arithmetic, Geometry, Music, and Astronomy marked the beginning of those
sciences of nature which are the basis of our modern material civilization.
This brief reference to the intellectual history of man will show that his
progress has been by a winding stair. He has moved a step at a time, and, from
century to century, in different directions; but when viewed from the vantage
point of our day, his progress is seen to have been, on the whole, an upward one.
It was assumed in ancient times, for reasons that were then thought
adequate, that the winding stairs consisted of fifteen steps.
These reasons are highly poetic and are charged with a deep spiritual significance.
The ancient Hebrews had no system of arithmetical symbols such as we have today.
Numbers were indicated by letters of the alphabet, and the letters which represented
fifteen stood also for the Hebrew name of God.
This detail of the allegory suggests powerfully:
that however slow and difficult the upward movement of mankind may have been, and however varying its direction from time to time, it has been a part of the Divine plan.
The winding stairs, like all the other parts of the building, have spoken the mind of the Divine Architect.
Turning now to the philosophy of Freemasonry we may note that the E.A. stands,
as it were, within the door of the Temple. Like the child, and like primitive man, he must be content for the moment with imperfect knowledge and limited skill.
In the F.C. he mounts the winding stairs & in his ascent he learns more of Freemasonry, of its aims, and of the means through which these are realized.
As he stands in the middle chamber he looks forward to further enlightenment,
and to the increased power that such an enlightenment will give.
He is like the youth with the promise and potency of full manhood still before him.
But he has learned the Masonic counterpart of the truth which a modern poet has sought to apply to human life and to human aspirations as a whole:
“Heaven is not reached by a single bound,
But we build the ladder by which we rise
From the lowly earth to the vaulted skies,
And we mount to its summit, round by round.”
This wonderful paper speaks to the “Spiritual Ascent” taught in the Second Degree,
He has placed an excellent paper before us & I add my congratulations.
Have a wonderful Day & God Bless