Introduction To FreeMasonry
At your leisure hours, that you may improve in Masonic knowledge, you
are to converse with well-informed brethren, who will always be as ready
to give, as you will be ready to receive, instruction.
These words from the Charge to an Entered Apprentice set forth the
purpose of the three little books, of which this is the first: to give
to the initiate, in his leisure hours, some "instruction" and
information about the Fraternity not wholly imparted in the ceremonies
These volumes are intended as simple introductions to the study of the
Ancient Craft; the interested Freemason will look further, for other and
longer books; the uninterested will not, perhaps, read all of these! Had
completeness been the aim, these little books might have become
No more has been attempted than to give some Masonic light on some of
the history, jurisprudence, symbols, customs, and landmarks of the
Order, by the rays of which any initiate may readily find his way down
the path of Masonic learning which leads to the gate of truth.
These books are far more gateways than guides to the foreign country of
Freemasonry. However elemental they may be to the Masonic student, if
their very simplicity leads those Entered Apprentices, Fellowcrafts, and
newly raised Master Masons for whom they were written to seek more
Masonic light, their purpose will have been served and their preparation
well worth the time and effort spent upon them.
Freemasonry is a system of morality, veiled in allegory, and illustrated
This definition of the Ancient Craft means much more to the
well-informed Freemason than to the initiate, to whom it can convey but
little. Naturally he wants to know "Why Freemasonry? Why is it veiled?
Why illustrated with symbols?"
Masons are "Free and Accepted" for reasons which are to be found in the
early history of Freemasonry.
Many of Freemasonry's symbols and teachings go back to the very
childhood of the race. Through these a direct relationship may be
traced, in mind and heart and ideal, if not in written document, to such
diverse ages and places as China four thousand years ago, the priesthood
of ancient Egypt, and the Jews of the Captivity. But for purposes of
understanding the genesis of the word "free" as coupled with "Mason," it
will suffice to begin with the Roman Collegia: orders or associations of
men engaged in simi lar pursuits. Doubtless their formation was caused
by the universal desire for fellowship and association, particularly
strong in Rome, in which the individual was so largely submerged for the
good of the empire, as well as by economic necessity, just as labour
unions are formed to-day.
These Collegia speedily became so prominent and powerful that Roman
emperors attempted to abolish the right of free association. In spite
of edicts and persecutions, some of the Collegia continued to exist.
The Colleges of Architects, however, were sanctioned for a time even
after others were forbidden. They were too valuable to the state to be
abolished or made to work and meet in secret. They were not at this
time called Freemasons, but they were free - and it is the fact and not
the name which is here important. Without architects and builders Rome
could not expand, so the Colleges of Architects were permitted to
regulate their own affairs and work under their own constitutions, free
of the restrictions which were intended to destroy other Collegia.
Then, as now, three were necessary to form a College (no Masonic lodge
can meet with less than three); the College had a Magister or Master,
and two Wardens, There were three orders or degrees in the College
which, to a large extent, used emblems which are a part of Freemasonry.
Roman sarcophagi show carvings of a square, compasses, plumb, level, and
Of the ceremonies of the Collegia we know little or nothing. Of their
work we know much, and of their history, enough to trace their decline
and fall. The Emperor Diocletian attempted to destroy the new religion,
Christianity, which threatened so much which seemed to the Romans to
make Rome, Rome. Many members of the Colleges of Architects were
Christians. Since these associations had taught and believed in
brotherhood, when there came a Carpenter who taught brotherhood because
of a common Father, the m embers of the Colleges of Architects took His
doctrine, so strangely familiar, for their own.
Persecution, vengeance, cruelty followed; this is not the place to go
into the story of the four Masons and the apprentice who were tortured
to death, only to become the four crowned martyrs and patron saints of
later builders and the Masons of the Middle Ages. Suffice it that the
Colleges of Architects were broken up and fled from Rome.
Comes a gap which is not yet bridged. Between the downfall of Rome and
the rise of Gothic architecture we know little of what happened to the
builders' Collegia. It is here that we come to the fascinating story
of the Comacines. Some of the expelled builders found refuge on the
island of Comacina in Lake Como and, through generation after
generation, kept alive the traditions and secrets of their art until
such time as the world was again ready for the Master Builders. All
this is most interestingly set forth in several books, best known of
which is Leader Scott's Cathedral Builders; The Story of a Great
Masonic Guild. The author says that the Comacine Masters "were the
link between the classic Collegia and all other art and trade guilds of
the Middle Ages. They were Freemasons because they were builders of a
privileged class, absolved from taxes and servitude, and free to travel
about in times of feudal bondage."
During the Middle Ages and the rise of Gothic architecture we find two
distinct classes of Masons; the Guild Masons, who, like the Guild
carpenters or weavers or merchants, were local in character and strictly
regulated by law, and the Freemasons, who travelled about from city to
city as their services were needed to design and erect those marvellous
churches and cathedrals which stand to-day inimitable in beauty. It may
not be affirmed as a proved fact that the Freemasons of the Middle Ages
were the direc t descendants through the Comacine Masters of the
Colleges of Architects of Rome, but there is too much evidence of a
similar structure, ideal, and purpose, and too many similarities of
symbol, tool, and custom, to dismiss the idea merely because we have no
written record covering the period between the expulsion from Rome and
the beginning of the cathedral-building age.
However this may be, the operative builders and designers of the
cathedrals of Europe were an older Order than the Guild Masons; it is
from these Freemasons - free of the Guild and free of the local laws -
that the Freemasonry of to-day has come. Incidentally, it may be noted
that the historian Findel finds that the name Freemason appears as early
as 1212, and the name occurs in 1375 in the history of the Company of
Masons of the City of London.
The history of the Freemasons through the cathedral-building ages up to
the Reformation and the gradual decline of the building art needs
volumes where here are but pages. But it must be emphasized that the
Freemasons were far more than architects and builders; they were
artists, the leaders, the teachers, the mathematicians and the poets of
their time. In their lodges Speculative Masonry grew side by side with
their operative art. They were jealous of their Order and strict in
their acceptance of Appren tices; strict in admitting Apprentices to be
Fellows of the Craft, requiring seven years of labour of an Apprentice
before he might make his "Master's Piece" to submit to the Master and
Wardens of his lodge, when, happy, he might become a Fellow and receive
"the Mason Word."
In an age when learning was difficult to get and association with the
educated hardly to be had outside of the church, it was but natural that
thoughtful and scholarly men should desire membership among the
Freemasons. Such men, however, would not want to practice operative
masonry, or serve a seven years' apprenticeship. Therefore a place was
made for them by taking them in as accepted Masons; that is, accepted as
members having something to offer and desiring to receive something from
the lodge, but dis tinguished from the operative Freemasons by the title
It is not possible to say when this practice began. The Regius Poem, (1)
the oldest document of Free-
(1) Halliwell Manuscript, the oldest of the written Constitutions,
transcribed in 1390, probably from an earlier version. Called Halliwell
because first published in 1840 by James O. Halliwell, who first
discovered its Masonic character. Prior to that date it was catalogued
in the Royal Library as A Poem of Moral Duties. Called the Regius Poem
partly because it formed part of Henry VIII's Royal Library and partly
because it is the first and therefore the kingly or royal document of
masonry (1390), speaks of Prince Edward (Tenth Century) as:
Of speculatyfe he was a master.
Desiring to become architects and builders, ecclesiasts joined the
order. Lovers of liberty were naturally attracted to a fellowship in
which members enjoyed unusual freedom.
Through the years, particularly those which saw the decline of great
building and the coming of the Reformation, more and more became the
Accepted Masons and less and less the operative building Freemasons. Of
forty-nine names on the roll of the Lodge of Aberdeen in the year 1670,
thirty-nine were those of Accepted Masons.
Hence our title - Free and Accepted Masons, abbreviated F. & A.M. There
are variations in certain jurisdictions, (1) such as F. and A. M. (Free
and Accepted Masons), A.F. & A.M. (Ancient Free and Accepted Masons),
etc., the origin of which the student may find in the history of
Freemasonry of the Grand Lodge era. (See Page 121, footnote)
(1) Jurisdiction: the territory and the Craft in it over which a Grand
Lodge is sovereign. In the United States are forty-nine; one for each
state and the District of Columbia. Used as a brevity; thus, the
Masonic jurisdiction of New Jersey means "all the Masonry, lodges,
Masons in the State of New Jersey over which rules the Grand Lodge of
the Most Ancient and Honourable Society of Free and Accepted Masons for
the State of New Jersey."
The word also means the territorial boundaries to which the right of a
lodge to accept petitions extends.
ALLEGORY AND SYMBOLS
Freemasonry is "veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols" because
these are the surest ways by which moral and ethical truths may be
taught. It is not only with the brain and the mind that the initiate
must take in Freemasonry but also with the heart.
Mind speaks to mind with spoken or written words. Heart speaks to heart
with words which cannot be written or spoken. Those words are symbols;
words which mean little to the indifferent, much to the understanding.
The body has its five senses through which the mind may learn; the mind
has also imagination. That imagination may see farther than eyes and
hear sounds fainter than may be caught by ears. To the imagination
symbols become plain as printed words to the eye. Nothing else will do;
no words can be as effective (unless they are themselves symbols); no
teachings expressed in language are as easily learned by the mind as
those which come via the symbol through the imagination.
Take from Freemasonry its symbols and but the husk remains, the kernel
is gone. He who hears but the words of Freemasonry misses their meaning
During the ceremonies of initiation the Entered Apprentice is informed
what a lodge is. In other than the words of the ritual a Masonic lodge
is a body of Masons warranted or chartered as such by its Grand Lodge
and possessing the three Great Lights in Masonry.
The lodge usually (1) comes into being when a certain number of brethren
petition the Grand Master, who, if it is his pleasure issues a
dispensation which forms these brethren into a provisional lodge, or a
lodge under dispensation, familiarly known as U.D. The powers of the
U.D. lodge are strictly limited; it is not yet a "regularly constituted
lodge" but an inchoate sort of organization, a fledgling in the nest.
Not until the Grand Lodge has authorized the issuance of the warrant
does it assume the statu s of a "regular" lodge, and not then until it
is consecrated, dedicated, and constituted by the Grand Master and his
officers, or those he delegates for the ceremony. The warrant of the
new lodge names its first Worshipful Master, Senior Warden, and Junior
Warden, who hold office until their successors are duly elected and
Lodge officers are either elected or appointed. In some lodges in some
jurisdictions all officers in the "line" are elected. In others only
the Master, Senior and Junior Wardens, Secretary and Treasurer are
elected, the others being appointed.
The term of office is one year, but nothing prevents re-election of a
Master or Wardens. Indeed, Secretaries and Treasurers generally serve
as long as they
(1) The oldest lodges in a Grand Lodge existed prior to its formation
and came into being from a warrant or charter from some other Grand
Lodge, or, in some few instances of very old lodges, merely by brethren
getting together and holding a lodge under "immemorial custom." Thus,
Fredericksburg Lodge of Virginia, in which Washington received his
degrees, had no warrant until several years after its formation.
are willing; a lodge almost invariably re-elects the same incumbents
year after year to these places. These officers become the connecting
links between different administrations, which practice makes for
stability and smooth running.
In the absence of the Master the Senior Warden presides and has for the
time being the powers and duties of the Master; in his absence the same
devolve upon the Junior Warden.
All lodges have an officer stationed "without the door with a drawn
sword in his hand." He is the Tiler and his duties are to keep off
"cowans and eavesdroppers." In operative days the secrets of the
Freemasons were valuable in coin of the realm. The Mason who knew "the
Mason Word" could travel in foreign countries and receive a Master's
wages. Many who could not or would not conform to the requirements
tried to ascertain the secrets in a clandestine manner.
The eavesdropper - literally, one who attempts to listen under the
eaves, and so receives the droppings from the roof - was a common thief
who tried to learn by stealth what he would not learn by work.
The cowan was an ignorant Mason who laid stones together without mortar
or piled rough stone from the field into a wall without working them
square and time. He was a Mason without the word, with no reputation;
the Apprentice who tried to masquerade as a Master.
The operative Masons guarded their assemblies against the intrusion of
both the thief and the half-instructed craftsman. Nothing positive is
known of the date when the guardian of the door first went on duty. He
was called a Tiler or Tyler because the man who put on the roof or tiles
(tiler) completed the building and made those within it secure from
intrusion; therefore the officer who guarded the door against intrusion
was called, by analogy, a Tiler.
Lodges are referred to as Symbolic, Craft, Ancient Craft, Private,
Particular, Subordinate, and Blue, all of which names distinguish them
from other organizations, both Masonic and non-Masonic. The word
"subordinate" is sometimes objected to by Masonic scholars, most of whom
prefer other appellations to distinguish the individual Master Mason's
lodge from the Grand Lodge. All Masonic lodges of Ancient Craft Masonry
are "Blue Lodges" blue being the distinctive Masonic colour, from the
blue vault of heaven which is the covering of a symbolic lodge, and
which embraces the world, of which the lodge is a symbol.
To such an organization a man petitions for the degrees of Freemasonry.
If the lodge accepts his petition a committee is appointed to
investigate the petitioner. The committee reports to the lodge whether
or not, in its opinion, the petitioner is suitable material out of which
to make a Mason.
The statutory time of a month having elapsed and all the members of the
lodge having been notified that the petition will come up for ballot at
a certain stated communication (Masonic word for "meeting"), the members
present ballot on the petition.
The ballot is secret and both the laws and the ancient usages and
customs surrounding it are very strict. No brother is permitted to
state how he will ballot or how he has balloted. No brother is
permitted to inquire of another how he will or has balloted. One black
cube (negative ballot) is sufficient to reject the petitioner.
The secrecy of the ballot and the universal (in this country)
requirement that a ballot be unanimous to elect are two bulwarks of the
Fraternity. Occasionally both the secrecy and the required unanimity
may seem to work a hardship, when a man apparently worthy of being taken
by the hand as a brother is rejected, but no human institution is
perfect, and no human being acts always according to the best that is in
him. The occasional failure of the system to work complete justice must
be laid to the individu als using it and not to the Fraternity.
More will be said later in these pages on the power of the ballot, its
use and abuse; here it is sufficient to note one reason for the secret
and unanimous ballot by which the petitioner may be elected to receive
initiation. Harmony - oneness of mind, effort, ideas, and ideals - is
one of the foundations of Freemasonry. Anything which interferes with
harmony hurts the institution. Therefore it is essential that lodges
have a harmonious membership; that no man be admitted to the Masonic
home of any brothe r against that brother's will.
Having passed the ballot, the petitioner in due course is notified,
presents himself and is initiated.
He then becomes an Entered Apprentice Mason. He is a Mason to the extent
that he is called "brother" and has certain rights; he is not yet a
Mason in the legal Masonic sense. Seeing a framework erected on a plot
of ground we reply to the question, "What are they building?" by saying,
"A house." We mean, "They are building something which eventually will
be a house." The Entered Apprentice is a Mason only in the sense that he
is a rough ashlar (1) in process of being made into a perfect ashlar.
The Entered Apprentice is the property of the lodge; he can receive his
Fellowcraft and Master Mason degrees nowhere else without its
permission. But he does not yet pay dues to the lodge, he is not yet
permitted to sign its by-laws, he can enter it only when it is open on
the first degree, he cannot hold office, vote or ballot, receive Masonic
burial, attend a Masonic funeral as a member of the lodge, and has no
right to Masonic charity.
He has the right to ask his lodge for his Fellowcraft's degree. He has
the right of instruction by competent brethren to obtain that "suitable
proficiency" in the work of the first degree which will entitle him to
his second degree if the brethren are willing to give it to him.
The lodge asks very little of an Entered Apprentice besides the secrecy
to which his obligation bound him and those exhibitions of character
outlined in the Charge given at the close of the degree.
It requires that he be diligent in learning and that so far as he is
able he will suit his convenience as to time and place to that of his
Inasmuch as the Rite of Destitution is taught the initiate in the first
degree he may naturally wonder why an Entered Apprentice has not the
right to lodge
(1) Ashlar; a building stone.
charity if he needs it. Individual Masonic charity he may, of course,
receive, but the right to the organized relief of the lodge, or a Grand
Lodge, belongs only to a Master Mason.
This is Masonic law; Masonic practice, in the spirit of brotherly love,
would offer any relief suddenly and imperatively needed by an initiate -
for that is Freemasonry.
In the Middle Ages operative apprentices were required to labour seven
years before they were thought to know enough to attempt to become
Fellows of the Craft. At the end of the seven-year period an apprentice
who had earned the approbation of those over him might make his Master's
Piece and submit it to the judgment of the Master and Wardens of his
The Master's Piece was some difficult task of stone cutting or setting.
Whether he as admitted as a Fellow or turned back for further
instruction depended on its perfection.
The Master's Piece survives in Speculative Masonry only as a small task
and the seven years have shrunk to a minimum of one month. Before
knocking at the door of the West Gate for his Fellowcraft's Degree an
Entered Apprentice must learn "by heart" a part of the ritual and the
ceremonies through which he has passed.
Easy for some, difficult for others, this is an essential task. It must
be done, and well done. It is no kindness to an Entered Apprentice to
permit him to proceed if his Master's Piece is badly made.
As the initiate converses with well-informed brethren, he will learn
that there are literally millions of Masons in the world - three
millions in the United States. He does not know them; they do not know
him. Unless he can prove that he is a Mason, he cannot visit in a lodge
where he is not known, neither can he apply for Masonic aid, nor receive
Masonic welcome and friendship.
Hence the requirement that the Entered Apprentice learn his work well is
in his own interest.
But it is also of interest to all brethren, wheresoever dispersed, that
the initiate know his work. They may find it as necessary to prove
themselves to him as he may need to prove himself to them. If he does
not know his work, he cannot receive a proof any more than he can give
It is of interest to the lodge that the initiate know his work well.
Well-informed Masons may be very useful in lodge; the sloppy, careless
workman can never be depended upon for good work.
Appalled at the apparently great feat of memory asked, some initiates
study with an instructor for an hour or two, find it difficult, and lose
courage. But what millions of other men have done, any initiate can do.
Any man who can learn to know by heart any two words can also learn
three; having learned three he may add a fourth, and so on, until he can
stand before the lodge and pass a creditable examination, or satisfy a
committee that he has learned enough to entitle him to ask for further
The initiate should be not only willing but enthusiastically eager to
learn what is required because of its effect upon his future Masonic
career. The Entered Apprentice who wins the honour of being passed to
the degree of Fellowcraft by having well performed the only task set him
goes forward feeling that he is worthy. As Speculative Freemasonry
builds only character, a feeling of unworthiness is as much a handicap
in lodge life as a piece of faulty stone is in building a wall.
But the most important reason for learning the work thoroughly goes
farther. It applies more and more as the Fellowcraft's Degree is
reached and passed and is most vital after the initiate has the proud
right to say, "I am a Master Mason."
One of the great appeals of Freemasonry, both to the profane (1) and to
Masons, is its antiquity. The Order can trace an unbroken history of
more than two hundred years in its present form (the Mother Grand Lodge
was formed in 1717), and has irrefutable documentary evidence of a much
longer existence in simpler forms.
Our present rituals - the plural is used advisedly, as no two
jurisdictions are exactly at one on what is correct in ritual -are the
source books from which we prove just where we came from and, to some
extent, just when.
If we alter our ritual, either intentionally or by
(1) Masonically, from pro and fanum, meaning, "Without the temple." To a
Mason a profane is one not a Mason; the profane world is all that is not
in the Masonic world. The word as used by Masons has no relation to
that used to describe what is irreligious or blasphemous.
poor memorization, we gradually lose the many references concealed in
the old, old phrases which tell the story of whence we came and when.
Time is relative to the observer; what is very slow to the man may be
very rapid to nature. Nature has all the time there is. To drop out a
word here, put in a new one there, eliminate this sentence and add that
one to our ritual seems to be a minor matter in a man's lifetime. Yet
if it is continued long enough - a very few score of years - the old
ritual will be entirely altered and become something new.
We have confirmation of this. Certain parts of the ritual are printed.
These printed paragraphs are practically the same in most jurisdictions.
Occasionally there is a variation, showing where some committee on work
has not been afraid to change the work of the fathers. But as a whole
the printed portion of our work is substantially what it was when it was
first brought to this country more than two hundred years ago.
The secret work is very different in many of our jurisdictions. Some of
these differences are accounted for by different original sources, yet
even in two jurisdictions which sprang from the same source of
Freemasonry, and originally had the same work, we find variations,
showing that mouth-to-ear instruction, no matter how secret it may be,
is not wholly an accurate way of transmitting words.
If in spite of us alterations creep in by the slow process of time and
human fallibility, how much faster will the ritual change if we are
careless or indifferent? The farther away we get from our original
source, the more meticulously careful must trust-worthy Masons be to
pass on the work to posterity exactly as we receive it. The Mason of
olden time could go to his source for reinspiration - we cannot.
Ritual is the thread which binds us to those who immediately preceded
us, as their ritual bound them to their fathers, our grandfathers. The
ritual we hand down to our sons and their sons' sons will be their bond
with us, and through us with the historic dead. To alter that bond
intentionally is to wrong those who come after us, even as we have been
wronged when those who preceded us were careless or inefficient in their
memorization of ritual.
The Entered Apprentice, then, should not be discouraged if the ritual
"comes hard." He should fail not in the task nor question that it is
worth while, for on what he does and on the way in which he does it
depends in some measure the Freemasonry of the future. As he does well
or ill, so will those who come after him do ill or well.
"FREE WILL AND ACCORD"
Though he knows it not the petitioner encounters his first Masonic
symbol when he receives from the hands of a friend the petition for
which he has asked.
Freemasons do not proselyte. The Order asks no man for his petition.
Greater than any man, Freemasonry honours those she permits to knock
upon her West Gate. Not king, prince, nor potentate; president,
general, nor savant can honour the Fraternity by petitioning a lodge for
Churches send out missionaries and consider it a duty to persuade men to
their teachings. Commercial organizations, Boards of Trade, Chambers of
Commerce, Life Insurance Associations, and so on, attempt to win members
by advertising and persuasion. Members are happy to ask their friends to
join their clubs. But a man must come to the West Gate of a lodge "of
his own free will and accord," and can come only by the good offices of
a friend whom he has enlisted on his behalf.
The candidate obligates himself for all time: "Once a Mason, always a
Mason." He may take no interest in the Order. He may dimit, (1), become
unaffiliated, (2) be dropped N.P.D., (3) be tried for a Masonic offense
and suspended or expelled, but he cannot "unmake" himself as a Mason, or
ever avoid the moral responsibility of keeping the obligations he
If a man be requested to join or persuaded to sign a petition, he may
later be in a position to say, "I
(1) Dimit, also spelled demit. Masonic lexicographers quarrel as to
which is correct. Dimit from the Latin dimitto, to permit to go, is
probably more used than demit, from the Latin demittere, meaning to let
down from an elevated position to a lower one; in other words, to
resign. However spelled, in Freemasonry it signifies both the
permission of the lodge to have to join another lodge, and the paper
containing that permission.
(2) Unaffiliated: a Mason who belongs to no lodge. After he has taken
his dimit, a Mason is unaffiliated until again elected a member of some
lodge. A brother dropped N.P.D. is unaffiliated. A man made a Mason "at
sight" (done only by a Grand Master) is unaffiliated until be joins some
lodge. The state of unaffiliation is Masonically frowned upon, since an
unaffiliated brother contributes nothing to the Fraternity to which he
(3) N.P.D.: short for Non Payment of Dues.
became a Mason under a misapprehension. I was oveR-persuaded. I was
argued into membership," and might thus have a self-excusing shadow of a
reason for failure to do as most solemNly agrees.
But no man does so join unless he signs a false statement. He must
declare in his petition, and many times during his progress through the
degrees, that the act is "of my own free will and accord." Not Only must
he so declare, but he must so swear.
Freemasonry gives her all - and it is a great gift - to those she
accepts. But she gives only to those who honestly desire the gift. He
who is not first prepared to be a Freemason in his heart, that is, of
his own free will and accord, can never be one.
"Initiation is an analogy of man's advent from prenatal darkness into
the light of human fellowship, moral truth, and spiritual faith." (1)
From the Latin initium; a beginning, a birth, a coming into being. It
is a very common human experience. We are initiated into a new world
when we first go to school; adolescence is initiation into manhood or
womanhood; we undergo an initiation when we plunge into business or our
professions; marriage is an initiation into a new experience, a new way
of living, a new outlook on life; the acceptance of a religious
experience is an initiation; a new book may initiate us into a new
interest. Initiation is e verywhere and in one or another form comes to
(1) Howard B. Cruse.
Masonic initiation may, but does not necessarily, come to those who
seek, are accepted, and receive the degrees.
Many refuse the results of initiation. The school-boy who will not
study, the man who will not work, the reader who is not interested in
his book, the churchgoer to whom the service is but an empty form to be
gone through once a week because "it is the thing to do" - these gain
nothing from such initiations. The candidate who sees in the Masonic
initiation of the Entered Apprentice Degree only a formal and dignified
ceremony designed to take up an evening and push him one step forward
toward membership in the Order refuses to accept his initiation.
Neither lodge nor brethren can help this. If a man will not accept what
is offered, if his understanding is so dull, his mind so sodden, his
imagination so dead that he cannot glimpse the substance behind the
form, both be and the lodge are unlucky. That the majority of initiates
do receive and take to themselves this opportunity for spiritual rebirth
is obvious, otherwise the Order would not live and grow, could not have
lived through hundreds - in some form, thousands - of years.
He is a wise initiate who will read and study that he may receive all of
that for which he has asked. The lodge puts before him the bread of
truth, the wine of belief, the staff of power, and sets his feet upon
the path that leads to Light . . . but it is for him to eat and drink
and travel the winding path of initiation which at long last leads to
the symbolic East.
THE LODGE AS A SYMBOL
The lodge is a symbol of the world. Its shape, the "oblong square" is
the ancient conception of the shape of the world. The Entered Apprentice
is taught its dimensions, its covering, its furniture, its lights, its
jewels, and will learn more of it as a symbol as he proceeds through the
degrees. Although a symbol of the world, the lodge is a world unto
itself; a world within a world, different in its customs, its laws, and
its structure from the world without. In the world without are class
distinctions, w ealth, power, poverty, and misery. In the lodge all are
on a level and peace and harmony prevail. In the world without most laws
are "thou shalt not" and enforced by penalties. In the lodge the laws
are mostly "thou shalt" and compulsion is seldom thought of and as
rarely invoked. Freemasons obey their laws not so much because they
must as because they will. In the world without men are divided by a
thousand influences: race, business, religious belief, politics. In the
lodge men are unit ed in the common bond of three fundamental beliefs:
the Fatherhood of God, the brotherhood of man and the immortality of the
soul, and all the sweet associations which spring therefrom. In the
world without men travel many roads to many goals; in the lodge the
initiate does as all others who have gone this way before him, and all,
youngest Entered Apprentice and oldest Past Master, travel a common way
to an end which is the same for all.
Often it seems queer to the candidate. How should it not, when he
receives his explanations afterwards and not before? When the Entered
Apprentice Degree is concluded, the initiate who has ears to hear knows
some of the reasons for the manner of his preparation and reception,
although he should read not only this but larger books which will
amplify these instructions to his betterment. He may well begin with
the Book of Ruth, in which he will find much illumination "concerning
their manner of redeeming and changing."
But the Rite of Discalceation, (1) as it is called, has another
significance than that of giving testimony of sincerity of intentions.
These are sufficiently important; a candidate for the Entered
Apprentice Degree who is not sincere will have a very disagreeable time
in Freemasonry. But the hidden meaning of the rite is perhaps even
more important than the explained meaning. Here the initiate must
possess his soul in patience. He is not yet wholly admitted to the
temple which is Freemasonry. He is not permitted to do as Master
Masons do, or to know what Master Masons know. For the whole Masonic
significance of the rite he must wait until it is his privilege to
receive the Sublime Degree of Master Mason.
It should not come as a surprise that a special preparation for
initiation is required. The soldier's uniform allows his greatest
freedom of action. The bridegroom dresses in his best. The knight of
old put on shining armour when going into battle. Men prepare in some
way, to the best of their ability, for any new experience.
(1) From the Latin discalceatus, unshod.
Preparation for Masonic initiation is wholly a symbolic matter, but with
deeper meanings and greater than are apparent on first acquaintance.
This mouthful of a word, meaning literally "walking around," is not only
the name of a part of a degree but also of a symbol. The candidate is
conducted around the lodge room for a reason later explained, but the
inner meaning of this ceremony is hidden. Its deep significance unites
the initiate not only with all who have gone this way before in a
Masonic lodge, but with those uncounted millions of men who for
thousands of years have made of circumambulation an offering of homage
to the Unseen Presence.
Among the first religions were sun and fire worship. Prehistoric man
found God in nature. Thunder was His voice; lightning was His weapon;
wind was His breath; fire was His presence. The sun gave light and
heat; it kept away the wild beasts; it grew the crops; it was life
itself. Fire gave light and heat and prepared the food - it, also, was
life itself. Worship of the sun in the sky was conducted symbolically by
worship of fire upon piles of stones which were the first altars.
Man is incurably imitative. The small boy struts with his father's
cane; the little girl puts on her mother's dress to play grown up; the
valet imitates the master; the clerk imitates his manager. Early man
imitated the God he worshipped. Heat and light he could give by fire,
so lighting the fire on the altar became an important religious
ceremony. And early man could imitate the movements of his God.
The sun seems to move from east to west by way of the south. Early man
circled altars, on which burned the fire which was his God, from east to
west by way of the south. Circumambulation became a part of all
religious observances; it was in the ceremonies of ancient Egypt; it was
part of the mysteries of Eleusis; it was practised in the rites of
Mithras and a thousand other cults, and down through the ages it has
come to us.
When the candidate first circles the lodge room about the altar, he
walks step by step with a thousand shades of men who have thus
worshipped the Most High by humble imitation. Thus thought of
circumambulation is no longer a mere parade but a ceremony of
significance, linking all who take part in it with the spiritual
aspirations of a dim and distant past.
A further significant teaching of this symbol is its introduction to the
idea of dependence. Freemasonry speaks plainly here to him who listens.
Of this Newton (1) has beautifully written:
From the hour we are born till we are laid in the grave we grope our way
in the dark, and none could find or keep the path without a guide. From
how many ills, how many perils, how many pitfalls we are guarded in the
midst of the years!
(1) Dr. Joseph Fort Newton: an Episcopal minister whose golden pen has
given to Freemasonry The Builders, The Men's House, The Religion of
Masonry, Short Talks on Masonry, and whose vision and inspiration are a
power in the Masonic world.
With all our boasted wisdom and foresight, even when we fancy we are
secure, we may be in the presence of dire danger, if not of death
Truly it does not lie in man to direct his path. and without a true and
trusted friend in whom we can confide, not one of us would find his way
home. So Masonry teaches us, simply but unmistakably, at the first step
as at the last, that we live and walk by faith, not by sight; and to
know that fact is the beginning of wisdom. Since this is so, since no
man can find his way alone, in life as in the lodge we must in humility
trust our Guide, learn His ways, follow Him and fear no danger. Happy
is the man w ho has learned that secret.
In an Entered Apprentice's Lodge, the 133rd Psalm is read - sometimes
sung - during the course of the degree:
Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together
in unity. It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down
upon the beard, even Aaron's beard; that went down to the skirts of his
garments; As the dew of Hermon and as the dew that descended upon the
mountains of Zion, for there the Lord commanded the blessing, even life
Unity is an essential of a Masonic lodge. Unity of thought, of
intention, of execution. It is but another word for harmony, which
Freemasons are taught is the strength and support of all well-regulated
institutions, especially this of ours. Dew is nature's blessing where
little rain falls; the dew of Hermon is proverbially heavy. Israel
poured precious ointments on the heads of those the people honoured;
that which went down to the skirts of his garments was evidently great
in quantity, significant of t he honour paid to Aaron, personification
of high priest-hood, representative of the solidity of his group. The
whole passage is a glorification of the beauty of brotherly love, which
is why it was anciently selected to be a part of the Entered
Apprentice's Degree, in which the initiate is first introduced to that
principal tenet of the Fraternity.
In the true sense of the words Freemasonry is not a secret society but a
society with secrets. A secret society is one the members of which are
not known; a society which exists without common knowledge. Freemasonry
is well known. Men proudly wear the emblem of the Order on coat and
watch charm and ring. Many Grand Lodges publish lists of their
members. Many Grand Lodges maintain card indexes of all members in the
jurisdiction so that it is easy to ascertain whether or not a man is a
Mason. Grand Lodges publish their Proceedings, a Masonic press caters
to the Masonic world, and thousands of books have been written about
Freemasonry. Obviously it is not the society which is secret.
The initiate takes an obligation of secrecy; if he will carefully
consider the language of that obligation, he will see that it concerns
the forms and ceremonies, the manner of teaching, certain modes of
recognition. There is no obligation of secrecy regarding the truths
taught by Freemasonry, otherwise such a book as this could not lawfully
Sometimes the question is asked by a profane, "Why have any secrets? If
what you know and teach is worth so much, why not give it to the world?"
Secrecy is a common fact of everyday life. Our private affairs are
ours, not to be shouted from the housetops. Business secrets are often
of value in proportion to the success of keeping them. Diplomacy is
necessarily conducted in secret. Board meetings of companies, banks,
business bouses, are secret. A man and his wife have private
understandings for no one else to know. The lover tells the secrets of
his heart to but one ear.
From all of us some things are secret and hidden that might be open and
known - if we had the wit or would take the trouble to learn. Fine
music is a secret from the tone deaf. Mathematics are a secret from the
ignorant. Philosophy is a secret from the commonplace mind.
Freemasonry is a secret from the profane - and for the same reasons!
The secrecy of Masonry is an honourable secrecy; any good man may ask
for her secrets; those who are worthy will receive them. To give them
to those who do not seek, or who are not worthy, would but impoverish
the Fraternity and enrich not those who received them.
It is sometimes suggested that Freemasonry pretends to possess valuable
secrets merely to intrigue men to apply for them through curiosity. How
mistaken this is understood by every Freemason. He who seeks
Freemasonry out of curiosity for her secrets must be bitterly
disappointed. In school the teacher is anxious to instruct all who seek
the classroom in the secrets of geometry, but not all students wish to
study geometry and not all who do have the wit to comprehend.
Freemasonry is anxious to give of he r secrets to worthy men fit to
receive them but not all are worthy, and not all the worthy seek.
Freemasonry bas been aptly described as "the gentle Craft." Its
teachings are of brotherly love, relief, truth, love of God, charity,
immortality, mutual help, sympathy. To the initiate, therefore, the
penalty in his obligation comes often with a shock of surprise and
Let it be said with emphasis: the penalties are wholly symbolic.
The small boy uses the expression "By golly," keeping alive an ancient
Cornish oath in which goll or the hand, uplifted, was offered as a
sacrifice if what was said was not the truth. In our courts of law we
say, "So help me, God," in taking the oath to tell the truth. But the
small boy does not expect his hand to be cut off if he happens to fib,
nor is the penalty for perjury such that only God may help him upon whom
it is inflicted.
Masonic penalties go back to very ancient times; to years when
punishments were cruel and inhuman, often for very small offenses.
Throats were cut, tongues torn out, bodies cut in half, hooks struck
into breasts and the body torn apart; men were dismembered for all sorts
of offenses which seem to us much too trivial for such extreme
punishments; looting a temple, stealing a sheep, disclosing the king's
Other punishments of the Middle Ages were based on religious fears. To
be buried in unconsecrated ground was a terrible end for ignorant and
superstitious people who believed that it meant eternal damnation.
Similarly, to be interred in land which was no man's property - between
high and low water mark - was symbolical of spiritual death.
These and other horrible penalties were inflicted by law by various
peoples at various times. That the legal penalties for certain civil
crimes were incorporated in Masonic obligations seems obvious. But that
they ever meant or were ever intended to mean any death but a symbolic
one is simply not so.
The yokel who cries "May God strike me dead if this is not so" does not
mean that he wishes to die; but he says that he believes be will be
worthy of death if he lies. It is in such a way that the Masonic
penalties are to be understood; the Entered Apprentice states his belief
that he would merit the penalty of his obligation if he failed to keep
The only punishments ever inflicted by Freemasons upon Freemasons are
reprimand, suspension (definite and indefinite), and expulsion from the
Fraternity. The initiate who violates his obligation will feel the
weight of no hand laid upon him. He will suffer no physical penalties
whatever. The contempt and detestation of his brethren, their denial of
the privileges of Freemasonry to the foresworn, are the only Masonic
penalties ever inflicted.
THE GREAT LIGHTS
There are three - the Holy Bible, the Square, and the Compasses. (1)
The Holy Bible is always referred to as "The Great Light" or "The Great
Light in Masonry," in this country which is predominantly Christian.
The practice may be and often is different in other lands. What is
vital and unchangeable, a Landmark of the Order (a further discussion of
Landmarks is given later, see pages 159-163) is that a Volume of the
Sacred Law be open upon the Masonic altar whenever the lodge is open. A
lodge wholly Jewish may prefer to use only the Old Testament; in Turkey
and Persia the Koran would be used as the V.S.L. of the Mohammedan;
Brahmins would use the Vedas. In the Far East where Masonic lodges have
members of many races and creeds it is customary to have several holy
books upon the altar that the initiate may choose that which is to him
the most sacred.
The Holy Bible, our Great Light in Masonry, is opened upon our altars.
Upon it lie the other Great Lights - the Square and the Compasses.
Without all three no Masonic lodge can exist, much less open or work.
Together with the warrant from the Grand Lodge they are indispensable.
The Bible on the altar is more than the rule and guide of our faith. It
is one of the greatest of Freemasonry's symbols. For the Bible is here
a symbol of all holy books of all faiths. It is the Masonic way of
setting forth that simplest and most profound of truths which Masonry
has made so peculiarly her
(1) "Compass" in six jurisdictions.
own: that there is a way, there does run a road on which men "of all
creeds and of every race" may travel happily together, be their
differences of religious faith what they may. In his private devotions
a man may petition God or Jehovah, Allah or Buddha, Mohammed or Jesus;
he may call upon the God of Israel or the Great First Cause. In the
Masonic Lodge he hears humble petition to the Great Architect of the
Universe, finding his own deity under that name.
A hundred paths may wind upward around a mountain; at the top they meet.
Freemasonry opens the Great Light upon her altar not as one book of one
faith, but as all books of all faiths, the book of the Will of the Great
Architect, read in what language, what form, what shape we will. It is
as all-inclusive as the symbols which lie upon it. The Square is not
for any one lodge, any one nation, any one religion - it is for all
Masons, everywhere, to all of whom it speaks the same tongue. The
Compasses circum scribe the desires of Masons wheresoever dispersed; the
secret of the Square, held between the points of the Compasses (see page
58) is universal.
Countless references in our ritual are taken from the Old Testament.
Almost every name in a Masonic lodge is from the Scriptures. In the
Great Light are found those simple teachings of the universality of
brotherhood, the love of God for his children, the hope of immortality,
which are the very warp and woof of Freemasonry. Let it be emphasized;
these are the teachings of Freemasonry in every tongue, in every land,
for those of every faith. Our Great Light is but a symbol of the Volume
of the Sacred Law . Freemasonry is no more a Christian organization
than it is Jewish or Mohammedan or Brahmin. Its use of the collection
of sacred writings of the Jews (Old Testament) and the Gospels of the
New Testament as the Great Light must not confuse the initiate so that
he reads into Freemasonry a sectarian character which is not there.
This is so well understood that it needs emphasis only for the novice.
To give him specific facts as well as assertion: the Bible is first
mentioned as a Great Light in Masonry about 1760, whereas the first of
the Old Charges (one of the foundation stones on which rest the laws of
Freemasonry, first published in 1723, but presumably adopted by the
Mother Grand Lodge at its formation in 1717) reads in part as follows
A Mason is obliged by his tenure to obey the moral law; and if he
rightly understands the art, he will never be a stupid atheist, nor an
irreligious libertine. But though in ancient times Masons were charged
in every country to be of the religion of that country or nation,
whatever it was, yet 'tis now thought more expedient only to oblige them
to that religion in which all men agree, leaving their particular
opinions to themselves; that is, to be good men and true, or men of
honour and honesty, by whateve r denominations or persuasions they may
be distinguished; whereby Masonry becomes the center of union and the
means of conciliating true friendship among persons that must have
remained at a perpetual distance.
Perhaps never before has so short a paragraph had so profound an effect,
setting forth the non-sectarian, non-doctrinal character of Freemasonry,
making religion, not a religion, the important matter in the Ancient
In old rituals this was originally "cable rope." Our cable tow probably
comes from the German "Kabel tau."
The cable tow is symbolic of that life cord by which the infant receives
life from his mother. Symbolically the cable tow is the cord by which
the Masonic infant is attached to his Mother Lodge. When a baby is born
the physical cord is severed but never the knife was ground which can
cut the spiritual cord which ties a man to his mother. In the Entered
Apprentice Degree the physical restraint of the cable tow is removed as
soon as the spiritual bond of the obligation is assumed but never the
means has be en made by which to cut the obligation which binds a man to
his Mother Lodge and the gentle Craft. Expulsion does not release from
the obligation; unaffiliation does not dissolve the tie; dimitting and
joining another lodge cannot make of the new lodge the Mother Lodge.
The cable tow has further significance in the succeeding degrees which
will be discussed later.
THE LESSER LIGHTS
When an initiate is first brought to light, the radiance comes from the
three Lesser Lights, which form a triangle about or near the altar.
Lesser Lights are lit when the lodge is opened and the altar arranged
and extinguished when the lodge is closed and the Great Lights
displaced. Something - not very much - is said of them in the ritual.
They form one of those symbols in Freemasonry . . . of which there are
so many! . . . which the individual brother is supposed to examine and
translate for himself, g etting from it what he can and enjoying what he
gets in direct proportion to the amount of labour and thought he is
willing to devote to the process of extracting the meaning from the
In some jurisdictions the Lesser Lights are closely about the altar: in
others one is placed at each of the stations of do three principal
officers. In some lodges the three Lesser Lights form a right, in
others an equilateral, in others an isosceles triangle. What is uniform
throughout the Masonic world is the triangular formation; what is
different is the shape and size of the triangle.
Of course, it is not possible to place three lights to form anything
else but a triangle; they cannot be made to form a square or a star.
Hence the natural question: why are there three Lesser Lights and not
two or four or more?
There is "three" throughout Ancient Craft Masonry. The first of the
great Sacred Numbers of the Ancient Mysteries, three was the numerical
symbol of God, but not because God was necessarily considered as
triune. While many religions of many ages and peoples have conceived
of Divinity as a trinity, the figure three as a symbol of God is far
older than any trinitarian doctrine. The triangle, like the circle, is
without beginning or ending. One line, or two lines, have ends. They
start and finish. Like the square or the five or more sided figure, the
triangle has no loose ends. And the triangle is the first of these
which can be made; as God was always considered as first, and also as
without either beginning or ending, the triangle itself soon became a
symbol of Deity.
Ancient peoples made much of sex. Their two greatest impulses were
self-preservation and mating. Their third was protection of children.
So powerful were these in primal man that not all his civilization, his
luxury, his complicated and involved life, have succeeded in removing
them as the principal main-springs of all human endeavour. It was
natural for the savage worshipper of a shining god in the sky to think
he, too, required a mate, especially when that mate was so plainly in
evidence. The Moon bec ame the Sun's bride by a process of reasoning as
plain as it was childlike.
Father, mother . . . there must be a child, of course. That child was
Mercury, the nearest planet to the sun, the one the god kept closest to
him. Here we have the origin of the three Lesser Lights; in earliest
recorded accounts of the Mysteries of Eleusis (to mention only one) we
find three lights about the holy place, representing the Sun, the Moon,
The Worshipful Master rules and governs his lodge as truly as the Sun
and Moon rule and govern day and night. There can be no lodge without
a Worshipful Master; he is, in a very real sense, the lodge itself.
There are some things he cannot do that the brethren under him can do.
But without him the brethren can do nothing, while without the
brethren's consent or even their assistance, he can do much. As one of
the principal functions of the Worshipful Master is to give "good and
wholesome instruction" to his lodge, the inclusion of one light as his
symbol is but a logical carrying out of that Masonic doctrine which
makes the East the source of Masonic light to the brethren.
By the light of the Lesser Lights the Entered Apprentice is led to see
those objects which mean so much to a Mason, the Great Lights; the
inestimable gift of God to man as the rule and guide for his faith and
practice, the tools dedicated to the Craft and to the Master, the Alpha
and Omega of Freemasonry. Light alone is not enough; light must be
used! Here, too, is symbolism which it is well to muse upon.
As the lodge as a whole is a symbol of the world, so should a Mason's
heart be to him always a symbol of the lodge. In it he should carry
ever what he may remember of the Great Light and with spiritual
compasses lay out his work; with spiritual square, square both work and
actions toward all mankind, "more especially a brother Mason." Therefore
must he carry also in his heart three tiny Lesser Lights, by the light
of which he uses his spiritual lodge furnishings. If he lights these
from the torch of love and burns one for friendliness, one for
helpfulness and one for godliness, he will be truly an initiate in the
real sense of that term, and about the altar of Freemasonry find a new
satisfaction in the new meanings which the three Lesser Lights will,
with silent light and soft, imprint upon his heart.
Mackey (1) states, "A mode of recognition which derives its name from
its object, which is to duly guard the person using it."
Other commentators have seen it as derived from the French "Dieu Garde"
- God guard me.
The origin of the Third Perfect Point is taught in the degree. Its use,
in salute, is a silent way of saying to all present, "I remember my
obligation; I am conscious of the penalty of its violation; I forget not
The initiate uses it first in a salutation to the Wardens, a ceremony
the significance of which should never be forgotten. The government of
a Masonic lodge is tripartite; it is in the hands of a Master and two
Wardens. By this ceremony the Entered Apprentice admits their
authority, submits himself to their government under the Master, and
agrees to abide by their setting mauls when it is proper for them to use
The Due Guard is given by an Entered Apprentice on entering and
retiring, that he may never forget the significance of his position when
he took upon
(1) Albert Gallatin Mackey: one of the greatest students and most widely
followed authorities the Masonic world has known. His Encyclopedia of
Freemasonry is a standard work; his Jurisprudence and his Symbolism, if
materially added to and changed since his time, are yet foundation
works. His History is exhaustive; his List of Landmarks, if often
superseded in these more modern days, first reduced the vexed question
to proportions in which it might be grasped by the average Masonic mind.
The Entered Appre ntice who pursues his studies in Freemasonry may do
much worse than consult the great Master of Freemasonry.
himself that obligation which gave him the title, Brother.
THE LAMBSKIN APRON
More ancient than the Golden Fleece or Roman Eagle, more honourable than
the Star and Garter ...
In these words the ritual seeks to impress upon him who has been
invested with the white lambskin apron its value and its importance.
The Order of the Golden Fleece was founded by Philip, Duke of Burgundy,
The Roman Eagle was Rome's symbol and ensign of power and might a
hundred years before Christ.
The Order of the Star was created by John II of France in the middle of
the Fourteenth Century.
The Order of the Garter was founded by Edward III of England in 1349 for
himself and twenty-five Knights of the Garter.
It is commonly supposed that the apron became the "badge of a Mason"
because stonemasons wore aprons to protect their clothing from the rough
contact of building material. But the apron is far, far older than
Golden Fleece or Roman Eagle, than the Star or Garter, than the
stonemasons of the Middle Ages - aye, older than the Comacine Masters,
the Collegia of Rome, the Dionysian Artificers who preceded them.
The Hebrew prophets wore aprons and the high priests were so decorated.
In the mysteries of Egypt and of India aprons were worn as symbols of
priestly power. The earliest Chinese secret societies used aprons; the
Essenes wore them, as did the Incas of Peru and the Aztecs of Mexico.
Throughout the Old Testament are references to lambs, often in
connection with sacrifices, frequently used in a sense symbolic of
innocence, purity, gentleness, weakness, a matter aided by colour, which
we unconsciously associate with purity, probably because of the hue of
This association is universal in Freemasonry, and the initiate should
strive to keep his apron white and himself innocent. His badge of a
Mason should symbolize in its colour the purity of his Masonic
character; he should forever be innocent of wrong toward all but "more
especially a brother Mason."
With the presentation of the apron the lodge accepts the initiate as
worthy. It entrusts to his hands its distinguishing badge. With it and
symbolized by it comes one of the most precious and most gracious of
gifts: the gift of brotherhood. Lucky the Entered Apprentice who has the
wit to see the extent and the meaning of the gift; thrice lucky the
lodge whose initiates find in it and keep that honour, probity and
power, that innocence, strength, and spiritual contact, that glory of
unity and oneness with all the Masonic world which may be read into this
symbol by him who hath open eyes of the heart with which to see. In the
words of the Old Dundee Lodge'- Apron Charge:
It is yours to wear throughout an honourable life, and at your death to
be placed upon the coffin which shall contain your mortal remains and
with them laid beneath the silent clods of the valley. Let its pure and
spotless surface be to you an ever-present reminder of a purity of life
and rectitude of conduct, a never-ending
(1) Of Scotland
argument for nobler deeds, for higher thoughts, for greater
achievements. And when at last your weary feet shall have come to the
end of their toilsome journey, and from your nerveless grasp shall drop
the working tools of life, may the record of your thoughts and actions
be as pure and spotless as this emblem . . .
For thus, and thus only, may it be worn with pleasure to yourself and
honour to the Fraternity.
"THE GREATEST OF THESE"
The Entered Apprentice practices the Rite of Destitution before he hears
the beautiful words of the lecture descriptive of the three principal
rounds of Jacob's ladder: "the greatest of these is charity; for faith
is lost in sight, hope ends in fruition, but charity extends beyond the
grave, through the boundless realms of eternity." But he may reflect
upon both at once and from that reflection learn that Masonic giving to
the destitute is not confined to alms.
Putting a quarter in a beggar's hand will hardly extend beyond the grave
through the boundless realms of eternity!
Masonic charity does indeed include the giving of physical relief;
individual Masons give it, the lodge gives it, the Grand Lodge gives it.
But if charity began and ended with money, it would go but a little way.
St Pal said: "And although I bestow all my goods to feed the poor and
have not charity, it profiteth me nothing."
If the charity of Freemasonry meant only the giving of alms, it would
long ago have given place to a hundred institutions better able to
The charity taught in the lodge is charity of thought, charity of the
giving of self. The visit to the sick is true Masonic charity. The
brotherly hand laid upon a bowed shoulder in comfort and to give courage
is Masonic charity. The word of counsel to the fatherless, the tear
dropped in sympathy with the widowed, the joyous letter of
congratulation to a fortunate brother, all are Masonic charity - and
these, indeed, extend beyond the grave.
Often an Entered Apprentice believes that the Rite has taught him that
every Mason must give a coin to every beggar who asks, even though they
line the streets and need as many dimes as a pocket will hold. Such is
not the truth. The Mason gives when he meets anyone "in like destitute
condition." It is left for him to judge whether the appeal is for a need
which is real or one assumed. In general all calls for Masonic charity
should be made through the lodge; machinery is provided for a kindly and
brother ly investigation, after which lodge or Grand Lodge will afford
relief. Individual charity is wholly in the control of the individual
But no conscience need control that larger and finer giving of comfort
and counsel, of joy and sadness, of sympathy and spiritual help. Here
the Mason may give as much as he will and be not the poorer but the
richer for his giving. He who reads the Rite of Destitution in this
larger sense has seen through the form to the reality behind and learned
the inner significance of the symbol.
Cornerstones are laid in the Northeast Corner because the Northeast is
the point of beginning; midway between the darkness of the North and the
light of the East.
The Entered Apprentice lays his Masonic Cornerstone standing in the
Northeast corner of the lodge, midway between the darkness of profane
ignorance and the full light of the symbolic East.
Here, if indeed he be a man of imagination and no clod, he receives a
thrill that may come to him never again - save once only - in Masonry.
For here he enters into his heritage as an Entered Apprentice. All that
has gone before bas been queer, mysterious, puzzling, almost
mind-shocking, devastating with its newness and its differences from the
world he knows. Now he stands "a just and upright Mason" to receive
those first instructions which, well studied, will enable him to
understand what has been done with and to him as to all who have gone
this way before.
Never again will he stand here, an Entered Apprentice - a man receives
the degree but once. Never, therefore, should he forget that once he
stood there, nor how he stood there, nor why. And if, momentarily,
memory leaves him, let him look in the Great Light and read (Ezekiel ii,
And God said unto me, Son of Man, stand upon thy feet and I will speak
unto thee. And the spirit entered into me when he spake unto me, and
set me upon my feet, that I heard him that spake unto me.
No man stands in the Northeast Corner with his heart open but hears that
Voice which thundered to the prophet of old.
The Entered Apprentice receives from the hands of the Master two working
The Twenty-four Inch Gauge is well explained in the ritual, but the
significance of one point is sometimes overlooked. The Entered
Apprentice is taught that by the Twenty-four Inch Gauge he should divide
his time: "Eight hours for the service of God and a distressed worthy
brother; eight for the usual vocations, and eight for refreshment and
There is no time to be wasted. There is no time to be idle. There is no
time for waiting.
The implication is plain; the Entered Apprentice should be always ready
to use his tools. He should recall the words of Flavius to the workman
in Julius Caesar, "Where is thy leather apron and thy rule? What does
thou with thy best apparel on?" Freemasonry is not only for the lodge
room but for life. Not to take the Twenty-four Inch Gauge into the
profane world and by its divisions number the hours for the working of
a constructive purpose is to miss the practical application of Masonic
labour and Masonic charity.
The Common Gavel which "breaks off the corners of rough stones, the
better to fit them for the builder's use" joins the Rough and Perfect
Ashlars in a hidden symbol of the Order at once beautiful and tender.
The famous sculptor and ardent Freemason, Gutzon Borglum, asked how be
carved stone into beautiful statues, once said, "It is very simple. I
merely knock away with hammer and chisel the stone I do not need and the
statue is there - it was there all the time."
In the Great Light we read: "The kingdom of heaven is within you." We
are also there taught that man is made in the image of God. As Brother
Borglum has so beautifully said, images are made by a process of taking
away. The perfection is already within. All that is required is to
remove the roughness, the excrescences, "divesting our hearts and
consciences of all the vices and superfluities of life" to show forth
the perfect man and Mason within. Thus the gavel becomes also the
symbol of personal power.
The Common Gavel has in every lodge a still further significance; it is
the symbol of the authority of the Worshipful Master. Later the
initiate will learn of the great extent of the power vested in the
Master of a lodge; sufficient now to say that the wise Master uses his
power sparingly and never arbitrarily. While the peace and harmony of
the Craft are maintained, he need not use it except as the ritual or
custom of presiding in the lodge requires. If he so use it will be
respected and its possessor w ill be venerated.
The Master always retains possession of the gavel and never allows it
beyond reach. He carries it with him when he moves about the lodge in
process of conferring a degree. When the lodge is in charge of the
Junior Warden at refreshment (1) it is the Junior Warden who uses a
gavel to control the lodge. The gavel is the Master's symbol of
authority and reminds him that although his position is the highest
within the gift of the brethren, he is yet but a brother among
brethren. Holding the highest power in the lodge he
(1) Masonic word for "at ease," meaning "not at work, but not closed."
exercises it by virtue of the commonest of the working tools.
Like all great symbols the gavel takes upon itself in the minds of the
brethren something of the quality of the thing symbolized. As we revere
the cotton in stripes and stars which become the flag of our country; as
we revere the paper and ink which become the Great Light in Masonry, so,
also, do Freemasons revere the Common Gavel which typifies and
symbolizes the height of Masonic authority - the majesty of power, the
wisdom of Light which rest in and shine forth from the Oriental Chair.
No symbol in all Freemasonry has the universal significance of the
Square. It is the typical jewel; the emblem known the world over as the
premier implement of the stone worker and the most important of the
Masonic working tools.
Every schoolboy learns that an angle of ninety degrees is a right angle.
So common is the description that few - even few Masons - pause in busy
lives to ask why. The ninety-degree angle is not only a right angle,
but it is the right angle - the only angle which is "right" for stones
which will form a wall, a building, a cathedral. Any other angle is,
About the symbolism of the Square is nothing abstruse. Stonemasons use
it to prove the Perfect Ashlars. If the stone fits the square, it is
ready for the builder's use. Hence the words "try square" and hence,
too, the universal significance of the word "square," meaning moral,
upright, honourable, fair dealing.
Five centuries before the Christian era - to mention only one ancient
use of the Square as an emblem of morality - a Chinese author wrote a
book called The Great Learning. In it is the negative of the Golden
Rule, that a man should not do unto others that which he does not wish
others to do unto him. And then the Chinese sage adds, "This is called
the principle of acting on the Square."
The initiate walks around the lodge turning corners on the square. On
the altar is again the Square. He sees the Square hung about the neck
of the Master - particularly is the Square the jewel of the Master,
because from him must come all Masonic light to his brethren, and his
teachings must be "square." The Square shares with the Level and the
Plumb the quality of immovability in the lodge, meaning that as it is
always the jewel of the Master, so is it immovably in the Symbolic East.
An emblem of virtue , it is always in sight of the brethren in the
lodge; for him who carries his Masonry into his daily life, it is
forever in sight within, the try square of conscience, the tool by which
he squares his every act and word.
The Level and the Plumb are the other Immovable Jewels; the Level worn
by the Senior Warden in the West, the Plumb by the Junior Warden in the
South. While Square, Level and Plumb are Immovable Jewels and as such
belong to all three of the degrees of Ancient Craft Masonry; while all
are always worn by the three principal officers and all are first seen
and noted in the Entered Apprentice's Degree, they have a further
significance in the second or Fellowcraft's Degree and the Plumb has an
especial significa nce in that ceremony.
NORTH, PLACE OF DARKNESS
The reference to the ecliptic has puzzled many a brother who has not
studied the elements of astronomy.
The earliest astronomers defined the ecliptic as the hypothetical
"circular" plane of the earth's path about the sun with the sun in the
As a matter of fact the sun is not in the center and the earth's path
about the sun is not circular. The earth travels once about the sun in
three hundred and sixty-five days and a fraction, on an elliptic path;
the sun is at one of the foci of that ellipse.
The axis of the earth, about which it turns once in twenty-four hours,
thus making a night and day, is inclined to this hypothetical plane by
23 1/2 degrees. At one point in its yearly path the north pole of the
earth is inclined toward the sun by this amount. Halfway farther around
its path the north pole is inclined away from the sun by this angle.
The longest day in the northern hemisphere - June 21 - occurs when the
north pole is most inclined toward the sun.
Any building situated between latitudes 23 1/2 north and 23 1/2 south of
the equator will receive the rays of the sun at meridian (noon) from the
north at some time during the year. King Solomon's Temple at Jerusalem,
being in latitude 31 degrees 47 seconds north, lay beyond this limit.
At no time in the year, therefore, did the sun or moon at meridian "dart
its rays into the northerly portion thereof."
As astronomy in Europe is comparatively modern some have argued that
this reason for considering the North, Masonically, as a place of
darkness, must be also comparatively modern. This is wholly mistaken -
Pythagoras (to go no further back) recognized the obliquity of the
world's axis to the ecliptic, as well as that the earth was a sphere
suspended in space. While Pythagoras (born 586 B.C.) is younger than
Solomon's Temple, he is almost two thousand years older than the
beginnings of astronomy in Europe.
POINT WITHIN A CIRCLE
There is in every regular and well-governed Lodge, a certain point
within a circle, embordered by two perpendicular parallel lines. . . .
It is among the most illuminating of the Entered Apprentice's symbols
and is important not only for its antiquity, and many meanings which
have been read from it, but because of the bond it makes between the old
operative stone setter's art and the Speculative Masonry we know.
No man may say when, where, or how the symbol began. From the earliest
dawn of history a simple closed figure has been man's symbol for Deity -
the circle for some peoples, the triangle for others, and a circle or a
triangle with a central point for still others. In some jurisdictions a
lodge closes with brethren forming a circle about the altar, which thus
becomes the point or focus of the Supreme Blessing upon the brethren.
A symbol may have many meanings, all of them right, so long as they are
not self-contradictory. As the point within a circle has had so many
different meanings to so many different people, it is natural that it
have many meanings for Masons.
It is connected with sun worship, the most ancient of religions; ruins
of ancient temples devoted both to sun and to fire worship are circular
in form with a central altar or point which was the Holy of Holies. The
symbol is found in India in which land of mystery and mysticism its
antiquity is beyond calculation. In ancient meaning the point
represents the sun and the circle the universe. This is both modern and
ancient, as a dot in a small circle is the astronomical symbol for the
The two parallel lines which in modern Masonry represent the two holy
Sts. John are as ancient as the rest of the symbol, but originally had
nothing to do with the "two eminent Christian patrons of Masonry." They
date back to an era before Solomon. On early Egyptian monuments may be
found the Alpha and Omega or symbol of God in the center of a circle
embordered by two perpendicular, parallel serpents representing the
Power and the Wisdom of the Creator.
This is not only a symbol of creation but is fraught with other
meanings. When man conceived that fire, water, the sun, the moon, the
stars, the lightning, the thunder, the mountains and rivers did not
each have a special deity, that in all this universe there was but one
God, and wanted to draw a picture of that conception of unity, the only
thing he could do was to make a point. When man conceived that God was
eternal, without beginning and without ending, from everlasting to
everlasting, and desired to draw a picture of that conception of
eternity, he could but draw a circle that goes around and around
forever. When man conceived that the Master Builder did not blow hot
and cold, that he was not changing, fickle and capricious, but a God of
rectitude and justice, and needed to picture that conception of
righteousness, he drew straight up and down parallel lines. So this
symbol stands for the unity, the eternal life, and the righteousness of
That derivation of the symbol which best satisfies the mind as to logic
and appropriateness students find in the operative craft. The tools
used by the cathedral builders were the same as ours to-day; they had
gavel and mallet, setting maul and hammer, chisel and trowel, plumb and
square, level and twenty-four inch gauge to "measure and lay out their
The square, the level, and the plumb were made of wood - wood, cord, and
weight for plumb and level; wood alone for square.
Wood wears when used against stone and warps when exposed to water or
damp air. The metal used to fasten the two arms of the square together
would rust and perhaps bend or break. Naturally the squares would not
stay square indefinitely but had to be checked up constantly for their
The importance of the perfect right angle in the square by which the
stones were shaped can hardly be overestimated. Operative Masonry in
the cathedral-building days was largely a matter of cut and try, of
individual workmen, of careful craftsmanship. Quantity production,
micrometer measurement, interchangeable parts had not been invented.
All the more necessary then that the foundation on which all the work
was done should be as perfect as the Masters knew how to make it.
Cathedral builders erected th eir temples for all time - how well they
built a hundred glorious structures in the Old World testify. They
built well because they knew how to check and try their squares.
Draw a circle - any size - on a piece of paper. With a straight edge
draw a line through its center. Put a dot on the circle anywhere.
Connect that dot with the line at both points where it crosses the
circle. Result, a perfect right angle. Draw the circle of what size
you will; place the dot on the circumference where you will; if the
lines from the dot meet the horizontal line crossing the circle through
its center, they will form a right angle.
This was the operative Master's great secret - knowing how to "try the
square." It was by this means that be tested working tools; did he do so
often enough it was impossible either for tools or work "to materially
err." From this also comes the ritual used in the lodges of our English
brethren where they "open on the center."
The original line across the center bas been shifted to the side and
become the "two perpendicular parallel lines" of Egypt and India, and
our admonitions are no longer what they must once have been; ... "while
a Mason circumscribes his square within these points, it is impossible
that it should materially err." But how much greater becomes the meaning
of the symbol when we see it as a direct descent from an operative
practice! Our ancient brethren used the point within a circle as a test
for the rectitud e of the tools by which they squared their work and
built their temporal buildings. In the Speculative sense we use it as a
test for the rectitude of our intentions and our conduct, by which we
square our actions with the square of virtue. They erected Cathedrals -
we build the house not made with bands. Their point within a circle was
operative - ours is Speculative. But through the two - point in a circle
on the ground by which an operative Master secretly tested the squares
of his fellows - point within a circle as a symbol by which each of us
may test, secretly, the square of his virtue by which he erects an Inner
Temple to the Most High - both are Masonic, both are beautiful. The one
we know is far more lovely that it is a direct descendant of an
operative practice the use of which produced the good work, true work,
square work of t he Master Masons of the days that came not back.
Pass it not lightly. Regard it with the reverence it deserves, for
surely it is one of the greatest teachings of Masonry, concealed within
a symbol which is plain for any man to read so be it he has Masonry in
LODGE OF THE HOLY STS. JOHN
Dedication, solemnly setting apart for some sacred purpose, is a
ceremony too ancient for its beginnings to be known. Just where Masons
left off dedicating their lodges to King Solomon cannot be stated
historically; traditionally, as the first Temple was dedicated to King
Solomon and the Second Temple to Zerubbabel, Masonry was first dedicated
to Solomon, then to Zerubbabel, and finally, after Titus destroyed the
Second Temple, to the Holy Sts. John.
But we do know that the dedication is very ancient; documentary evidence
connects the name of St. John the Evangelist with Masonry as early as
1598. The connection must be far older; indeed, if we need further
evidence of the possibility of the Comacine Masters having been the
progenitors of the operative Freemasons we may find it in the frequent
dedication of Comacine churches to one Saint John or the other. The
whole island of Comacina is dedicated to St. John the Baptist and an
annual festival and midsum mer pageant are observed in his honour to
St. John's Day in summer (June 24), and St. John's Day in winter
(December 27) were adopted by the Church in the Third Century, after
failure to win pagans from celebrating these two dates as the summer and
winter solstices; that is, the beginning of summer and the beginning of
winter. Not able to destroy the pagan festivals a wise diplomacy gave
them new names and took them into the Church!
It was the custom for the Guilds of the Middle Ages to adopt saints as
patrons and protectors, usually from some fancied relation to their
trades. The operative Masons were but one among many Guilds which
adopted one Saint John or the other; Masons adopted both as (explained
in an old ritual), "One finished by his learning what the other began by
his zeal, and thus drew a second line parallel to the former."
Whatever the reason and whenever the date, Freemasons of to-day come
from "the Lodge of the Holy Sts. John of Jerusalem," meaning that we
belong to a lodge dedicated to those Saints, whose practices and
precepts, teachings and examples, are those all Freemasons should try to
THE PRINCIPAL TENETS
The Entered Apprentice receives a monitorial explanation of these which
is both round and full, but neither full nor round enough to instruct
him wholly in these three foundation stones of the Ancient Craft. Nor
can he receive that roundness and fullness of explanation by words
alone. He must progress through the degrees, attend his lodge, see the
Fraternity in action, fully to understand all that Freemasonry means by
Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth.
But a word or two may clear away some possible misapprehensions.
Brotherly Love is not a sentimental phrase. It is an actuality. It means
exactly what it says; the love of one brother for another.
In the everyday world brothers love one another for only one reason.
Not for blood ties alone; we have all known brothers who could not "get
along" together. Not because they should, not because it is "the thing
to do," but simply and only because each acts like a brother.
Freemasonry has magic with which to touch the hearts of men but no
wizardry to make the selfish, unselfish; the brutal, gentle; the coarse,
fine; the bad, good. Brotherly Love in Freemasonry exists only for him
who acts like a brother. It is as true in Freemasonry as elsewhere that
"to have friends, you must be one."
The Freemason who sees a Square and Compasses upon a coat and thinks,
"There is a brother Mason, I wonder what he can do for me," is not
acting like a brother. He who thinks, "I wonder if there is anything I
can do for him," has learned the first principle of brotherhood.
"You get from Freemasonry just what you put into it" has been so often
said that it has become trite - but it is as true now as when first
uttered. One may draw checks upon a bank only when one has deposited
funds. One may draw upon Brotherly Love only if one bas Brotherly Love
The Entered Apprentice is obligated in a lodge which wants him; all its
members are predisposed in his favour. They will do all in their power
to take him into the Mystic Circle. But the brethren cannot do it all;
the Entered Apprentice must do his part.
Luckily for us all the Great Architect so made his children that when
the heart is opened to pour out its treasures, it is also opened to
The Entered Apprentice learns much of Relief; he will learn more if he
goes farther. One small point he may muse upon with profit; these words
he will often hear in connection with charity, "more especially a
St. Paul said (Galatians vi, 10), "As we have therefore opportunity, let
us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household
Freemasonry has no teachings that a Mason should not contribute to other
charities. The continually insistent teaching of charity through all
the three degrees, especially the Entered Apprentice's Degree excludes
from charity no one.
Without dependence societies, nations, families, congregations, could
not be formed or exist. But the very solidity of the group, predicated
upon mutual dependence, also creates this idea of distinction in relief
or friendship or business as between those without and those within the
group. This feeling is universal. The church gives gladly to all good
works but most happily to relieve those "who are of the household of
faith." Our government considers the welfare of its own nationals before
that of the n ationals of other governments. The head of a family will
not deny his own children clothes to put a coat upon the back of the
naked child of his neighbour. Those we know best, those closest, those
united in the tightest bonds come first, the world over, in every form
Naturally, then, a Mason is taught that while in theory for all, in
practice charity is for "more especially a brother Mason."
The final design of Freemasonry is its third principal tenet - the
imperial truth. In some aspects truth seems relative, because it is not
complete. Then we see it as through a glass, darkly. But the ultimates
of truth are immutable and eternal: the Fatherhood of God; the
immortality of the soul.
As two aspects of the same object may seem different to different
observers, so two aspects of truth may seem different. It is this we
must remember when we ask, What is truth in Freemasonry? It is the
essence of the symbolism which each man takes for himself, different as
men are different, greater as perception and intelligence are greater,
less as imagination and understanding are less. We are told, "On this
theme we contemplate" - we think of the truths spread before us and
understand and value them ac cording to the quality of our thinking.
Doubtless that is one reason for the universal appeal of Freemasonry;
she is all things to her brethren and gives to all of us of her Truth in
proportion to our ability to receive.
In the Entered Apprentice's Degree the initiate is taught the necessity
of a belief in God; of charity toward all mankind, "more especially a
brother Mason"; of secrecy; the meaning of brotherly love; the reasons
for relief; the greatness of truth; the advantages of temperance; the
value of fortitude; the part played in Masonic life by prudence, and the
equality of strict justice.
He is charged to be reverent before God, to pray to Him for help, to
venerate Him as the source of all that is good. He is exhorted to
practice the Golden Rule and to avoid excesses of all kinds. He is
admonished to be quiet and peaceable, not to countenance disloyalty and
rebellion, to be true and just to government and country, to be cheerful
under its laws. He is charged to come often to lodge but not to neglect
his business, not to argue about Freemasonry with the ignorant but to
learn Masonry, from M asons, and once again to be secret. Finally he is
urged to present only such candidates as he is sure will agree to all
that he has agreed to.
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