The Seven Liberal Arts and Sciences
Charles A. Sankey
12 December 1967

Prior to this year, the last previous change in our ritual was many years ago when the presentation of the working tools in the second degree was expanded from a much abbreviated form to that then specified for the ceremony of installation. What a difference resulted'. A brief summary was given life and substance. Listen to it carefully next time, and savour every word as the magnificent charge is delivered, I hope, slowly.

I am mentioning this because our second degree, presented tonight, is still lacking in meat. The skeleton, the bones are there, but the muscle is often missing. I suppose I am unusually conscious of this and unusually critical because my profession is in science and many of my inclinations are in the arts. I simply cannot avoid being aware of the discrepancies.

Tonight, in continuing my theme of Masonic things we live by, I want to add (and the addition is primarily from Masonic sources, I assure you) some muscle to a part of the Senior Warden's lecture. He referred to the seven liberal arts and sciences and then he told you what these were in eight words - no explanation, no elaboration, and much worse, no time to think about it before he was talking about something else. Without consulting your neighbours will you see if you can remember the seven. I shall not embarrass you by taking a poll but, unless you have personally given the Senior Warden's lecture, I would be agreeably surprised if any of you can name the seven right off.

Our era is an era of specialization. The mass of information available to the human race has become so enormous that each human mind often tries to grasp too much detail. Ņe are increasingly approaching the old reductio ad absurdum of knowing more and more about less and less until we know everything about nothing. The ancient classification of the seven liberal arts and sciences is an antidote for this colossus of detail.

The first of the liberal arts and sciences is Grammar, properly defined as the science which teaches us to express our ideas in appropriate words. Grammar is no mere compendium of rigid rules. It is the format of a living and therefore dynamically changing language. The second is Rhetoric. Today this word carries with it more than a hint of empty eloquence. But the liberal art and science of Rhetoric is not empty. It beautifies and adorns the words we use, giving them sound and speech. Third comes Logic which instructs us to think and reason with propriety and to make language subordinate to thought. Logic is at once a format for truth and a scourge for demagogues. The first three liberal arts and sciences comprise a trinity to promote right communication between men.

The fourth liberal art and science is Arithmetic, defined as the science of computing numbers. The possibilities of this science are only now being realized. Calculations which would have taken thousands of man-hours in ray university days are being done today in seconds by machines with unthinking but unforgetting memories. The significant happening, however, lies in the programming of these machines so that they make choices, so that they select preferred paths, so that they don't repeat mistakes; in other words so that they think. Computers (let me coin a name,- Arithmeticers) of the future will be, and I use the words advisedly, highly educated individuals in a highly automated society.

The fifth liberal art and science is Geometry, defined as the application of arithmetic to sensible quantities and by means of which we are enabled to measure and survey. In a real sense this is the art and science on which our Masonic order is based. Astronomy, the seventh liberal art and science, properly comes next, being the extension of geometry to the contemplation and measurement of the heavenly bodies. The contemplation and the measurement are, in the Masonic sense, inseparable. Music, the sixth of the liberal arts and sciences, is the science and appreciation of harmony and of all good sounds. How badly we need the Attentive Ear as well as the Instructive Tongue! Of the liberal arts and sciences I am happy to confess that I love music more than any of the others.

If I suggest the seven liberal arts and sciences as a Masonic thing to live by, you may say that this is far too much at one time. Each liberal art and science has been, for many men, a life's work to obtain even a glimpse of its extent. All this I recognize and, because of my training and inclination, probably better than most of you. My object is quite different. It is to point out riches in our ritual that have been substantially lost by attrition. It is, in a very real sense, to observe a due medium between avarice and profusion. It is to challenge and expand your appreciation of what Masonry has to offer.

So, as a Masonic-thing-to-live-by, I do give you the liberal arts and sciences, all seven of them, and bid you, as does the ritual, extend your researches into their hidden mysteries. You will never regret a moment spent in this endeavour in search of wisdom. You will never cease to wonder at their beauty and their truth.