Symbolical Design and Historical Summary of the Mark Master Degree

The following monitorial instructions on the Mark Master degree appear on pp. 15-17 of “The Book of the Chapter” by Albert G. Mackey.

The degree of Mark Master, which is the fourth in the masonic series, is, historically considered, of the utmost importance, since we are informed that, by its influence, each operative mason, at the building of King Solomon’s temple, was known and distinguished, and the disorder and confusion, which might otherwise have attended so immense an undertaking, was completely prevented, and not only the craftsmen themselves, but every part of their workmanship was discriminated with the greatest nicety and the utmost facility. If defects were found, the overseers, by the help of this degree, were enabled, without difficulty, to ascertain who was the faulty workman; so that all deficiencies might be remedied, without injuring the credit or diminishing the reward of the industrious and faithful among the craft. [Webb, Thomas. Freemason’s Monitor, edit. 1808. p. 84 et seq.]

Not less useful is it in its symbolic signification. As illustrative of the Fellow Craft’s degree, it is particularly directed to the inculcation of order, regularity, and discipline. It teaches us that we should discharge all the duties of our several stations with precision and punctuality; that the work of our hands and the thoughts of our hearts should be good and true—not unfinished and imperfect—not sinful and defective—but such as the Great Overseer and Judge of heaven and earth will see fit to approve as a worthy oblation from his creatures. If the Fellow Craft’s degree is devoted to the inculcation of learning, that of Mark Master is intended to instruct us how that learning can most usefully and judiciously be employed for our own honor and the profit of others. It holds forth to the desponding the encouraging thought, that although our motives may sometimes be misinterpreted by our erring fellow-mortals, our attainments be underrated, and our reputations be traduced by the envious and malicious, there is One, at least, who sees not with the eyes of man, but may yet make that stone which the builders rejected the head of the corner. The intimate connection, then, between the second and fourth degrees of Masonry is this, that while one inculcates the necessary exercise of all the duties of life, the other teaches the importance of performing them with systematic regularity. The true Mark Master is a type of that man, mentioned in the sacred parable, who received from his Master this approving language: “Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joys of thy Lord.”

We learn, from the traditions of Freemasonry, that the order of Mark Masters, at the temple of Solomon, was selected from the great body of the Fellow Crafts.

According to these traditions, there were two divisions of the Fellow Crafts. The first, or higher class, worked in the quarries, in finishing the stones, or, as we may say, in our lectures, “in hewing, squaring, and numbering” them; and that each one might be enabled to designate his own work, he was in possession of a mark which he placed upon the stones prepared by him. Hence, this class of Fellow Crafts were called Mark Masters, and received their pay from the Senior Grand Warden, whom some suppose to have been Adoniram, the brother-in-law of Hiram Abif, and the first of the Provosts and Judges. These Fellow Crafts received their pay in money, at the rate of a half shekel of silver per day, equal to about twenty-five cents. They were paid weekly, at the sixth hour of the sixth day of the week, that is to say, on Friday, at noon. And this hour appears to have been chosen, because, as we are taught in the third degree, at noon, or high twelve, the Craft were always called from labor to refreshment, and hence the payment of their wages at that hour would not interfere with, or retard the progress of, the work. And Friday was selected as the day, because the following one was the Sabbath, or day of rest, when all labor was suspended.

But the other and larger division of the Fellow Crafts, being younger and more inexperienced men, and with less skill and knowledge, were not advanced to the grade of Mark Masters. These were not, therefore, in possession of a mark. They proved their claim to reward by another token, and, after that part of the edifice was completed, received their wages in the middle chamber of the temple, being paid in corn, wine, and oil, agreeably to the stipulation of King Solomon with Hiram of Tyre.

The full text of Mackey’s monitorial instructions on the Mark Master degree may be found at:

Mark Master from Mackey’s “The Book of the Chapter”