The mosaic pavement is an old symbol of the Order. It is met with in the earliest Rituals of the eighteenth century. It is classed among the ornaments of the Lodge in combination with the indented tassel and the blazing star. Its parti-colored stones of black and white have been readily and appropriately interpreted as symbols of the evil and good of human life.
An order in architecture is a system or assemblage of parts subject to certain uniform established proportions regulated by the office which such part has to perform, so that the disposition, in a peculiar form, of the members and ornaments, and the proportion of the columns and pilasters, is called an order.
There are five orders of architecture, the Doric, Ionic, Corinthian, Tuscan, and Composite-the first three being of Greek and the last two of Italian origin (see each in this work under its respective title).
Considering that the orders of architecture must have constituted one of the most important subjects of contemplation to the Operative Masons of the Middle Ages, and that they afforded a fertile source for their symbolism, it is strange that so little allusion is made to them in the primitive lectures and in the earliest catechisms of the eighteenth century.
In the earliest catechism extant, they are simply enumerated and said to answer "to the base, perpendicular, diameter, circumference, and square" but no explanation is given of this reference. Nor sire they referred to in the Legend of the Craft, or in any of the Old Constitutions.
Preston however, introduced them into his system of lectures, and designated the three most ancient orders-the Ionic, Doric, and Corinthian-as symbols of wisdom, strength, and beauty, and referred them to the three original Grand Masters. This symbolism has ever since been retained; and, notwithstanding the reticence of the earlier ritualists, there is abundant evidence, in the architectural remains of the Middle Ages, that it was known to the old Operative Freemasons.
"The grammer rules instruct the tongue and pen,
Rhetoric teaches eloquence to men;
By logic we are taught to reason well,
Music has claims beyond our power to tell;
The use of numbers, numberless we find;
Geometry gives measure to mankind.
The heavenly system elevates the mind.
All those, and many secrets more,
The Masons taught in days of yore."
During the so-called Dark Ages what few scholars there were in Europe devoted themselves almost entirely to studies that had little or no connection with human life; they debated such questions as, What are the attributes of Deity? What are angels? What are demons? What is being? What is existence? How many angels can stand on the point of a needle? etc.
After the great Revival of Learning had come, with its rediscovery of history, of nature, of human life, and of classical literature, the scholars turned from the old subjects to themes that were nearer to life—history, the arts, science, politics, and so on.
The men who took up these studies were called Humanists because they were more interested in questions related to the life and needs of humanity than they were to the dry-as-dust discussion of metaphysics; and they urged in favour of their new studies that they would "humanise" men who would pursue them.