For the Entered Apprentice


 

The intent of this page is basically twofold: first, to provide the new member of Masonry with more information about the Fraternity, its structure, practices and symbolism; and secondly, to offer suggestive approaches for further research if one is so inclined. We feel that there is not only a great need for this type of information but also a great desire for it as well. Masonic education begins with the study of the rituals themselves. After that, the newly made Mason is given the Monitor for personal study. For some this is enough, but for others it is not. It is not our purpose here to repeat what is contained within our Rituals or in the Monitor but to stimulate the mind and provoke further research by offering a variety of approaches to consider.

 

Preparation For Initiation

Ideally, the candidate should find his way to the door of Freemasonry on his own. If a man senses the stirrings in his heart for a deeper understanding of life than that he has heretofore found, he will seek until he finds the Fraternity. This turning of the heart is really the beginning of his initiation. Therefore, each candidate who comes seeking light is said to be first prepared in his heart.

While Freemasonry is not a religion, its ceremonies are of a serious nature, dignified in their presentation and impart teachings that, if properly understood, obligate a man to lead a better life. To get the greatest good from the ceremonies, a candidate should first prepare his mind to understand and absorb these teachings. The candidate should pay strict attention to every part of the ceremony, in order that he may gain some understanding of the teachings of Freemasonry. The methods we use in teaching may be new and unusual to the candidate, but these methods have been used for many centuries and have not changed significantly since they originated. Finally, he should remember that every Mason in the Lodge room is his friend and brother.

Duly and Truly Prepared

Being duly and truly prepared refers to the wearing of special garments furnished by the Lodge to emphasize our concern with man's internal qualifications, rather than his worldly wealth and honors. By wearing these garments, the candidate signifies the sincerity of his intentions. The symbolism of the Rite of Destitution reverts to those ancient times when men believed that the soul descended through the planetary spheres and vested itself with the qualities attributed to each sphere before birth. Each planetary quality corresponds to a specific metal. In ancient initiations, candidates were compelled to leave all metals behind, lest they bring into the assembly disturbing planetary influences. While this symbolism may no longer have an astrological character, the old point about excluding disturbing influences remains. The candidate is not to bring into the Lodge room his passions or prejudices, lest that harmony, which is one of the chief concerns of Masonry, be destroyed.

Being duly and truly prepared also refers to the state of a man's heart and soul as he seeks admission into our Order. “Seek and ye shall find. Ask and it shall be given unto you. Knock and it shall be opened unto you.”

There are other factors involved in the preparation of the candidate that we will address in the next degree.

Entering the Lodge

As an Entered Apprentice takes his first step into the Lodge room, he enters into a New World: the world of Masonry. He leaves the darkness, destitution and helplessness of the world for the light and warmth of this new existence. It is not an idle formality, but a genuine experience, the beginning of a new career in which duties, rights and privileges are real. If a candidate is not to be an Apprentice in name only, he must stand ready to do the work upon his own nature that will make him a different man. Members are called craftsmen because they are workmen. Lodges are quarries because they are scenes of toil. Freemasonry offers no privileges or rewards except to those who earn them; it places working tools, not playthings, in the hands of its members. To become a Mason is a solemn and serious undertaking. Once the step is taken, it may well change the course of a man's life.

The Method of Reception

The reception of the candidate into the Lodge room is intended to symbolize the fact that our rituals are serious and confidential and that there are consequences for violating this confidence. It also reminds a man that his every act has a consequence, either in the form of a reward or a penalty. The method of reception also points out the value of a certain virtue needed to gain admission into the mysteries of Masonry.

Prayer in Lodge

No Lodge can be opened or be closed without prayer, which is offered by the Master or Chaplain. The prayer is universal in nature, and not peculiar to any one religion or faith. But the act of invoking the blessings of Deity is a central Masonic practice. At the end of prayer, each member responds with the words “So Mote it Be"; which means in Modern English, “So may it ever be.”

The Practice of Circumambulation

Circumambulation means to walk around some central point or object. In Masonry, the act is performed in a clockwise manner, patterned after the movement of the sun as it is seen from the earth, moving from East to West, by way of the South. The candidate's journey around the Altar also enables the brethren to observe that he is properly prepared. Circumambulation is an ancient practice found all over the world. Much the same idea as the labyrinth, it portrays the path of initiation as that of a journey. In another sense, it symbolically aligns one to a proper relationship with the order of the universe. There are references to circuitous routes in Psalms 26:6 and Job 22:14. And one may remember the action at Jericho.

Kneeling at the Altar

The central piece of furniture in the Lodge is the Altar. The Altar is symbolic of many things. As a temple symbolizes the presence of Deity, the altar symbolizes the point of contact. Its location in the center of the Lodge also symbolizes the place which God has in Masonry, and which he should have in every Mason's life. It is also a symbol of worship and faith. The candidate approaches the Altar in search of light and assumes his obligations there. In the presence of God and his Brethren, he offers himself to the service of the Supreme Architect of the Universe and to mankind in general. The Altar is the point on which life in our Masonic Lodges is focused and it should be accorded the highest respect.

The wisdom of the Master is said to flow from his station in the East to the Altar. Thus, one should never cross between the Master's Station and the Altar when a Lodge is in session.

The Obligation

The Obligation is the heart of the Degree; for when it is assumed by the candidate, he has solemnly bound himself to Freemasonry and assumed certain duties which are his for the rest of his life. The taking of the Obligation is visible and audible evidence of the candidate's sincerity of purpose. The Obligation has a two-fold purpose. In addition to binding the candidate to Freemasonry and its duties, it also protects the Fraternity against someone revealing the modes of recognition and symbolic instruction. The candidate should understand that the great truths which Masonry teaches are not secret, but the manner in which Freemasonry teaches these truths is considered secret.

Like much in the Fraternity, the roots of this practice are ancient. Making vows was a common practice in the Mysteries and was even a form of personal religion to the general populace. In many ways the vow defined their relationship with the deities of their homeland. Many vows were expressed in terms such as promises to a deity in return for safe voyages, successful crops, healing and so on. Although the nature of making vows and obligations has changed in modern times, it remains a very powerful method for setting direction in one's life and the building of character. The Latin obligato literally signifies a tying or binding. The relationship between the Cable Tow and the Obligation, along with the changing nature of this relationship as the candidate progresses, should not go unnoticed.

The Three Great Lights of Masonry

The Three Great Lights of Masonry are the Holy Bible, Square and Compass. The Volume of the Sacred Law (no matter what religion) is an indispensable part of a Lodge. The Grand Lodges of the United States use the Holy Bible as the V.S.L. on their Altars. In our jurisdiction, a candidate may request to have his own sacred book present on the Altar with the Bible during his degree ceremonies. In Lodges in other countries, other sacred texts are placed on the Altar in place of the Holy Bible, but no Lodge in California may stand officially open, unless the Holy Bible is opened upon its Altar with the Square and Compass displayed thereon. The open Bible signifies that we should regulate our conduct according to its teachings because it is the rule and guide of our faith and is a symbol of man's acknowledgment of his relation to Deity. The Square is a symbol of morality, truthfulness and honesty. To 'act on the square' is to act honestly. The Compass signifies the propitious use of action and is a symbol of restraint, skill and knowledge. We might also properly regard the Compass as excluding beyond its circle that which is harmful or unworthy. The Square and Compass are recognized by the general public as the symbol of Freemasonry.

The symbolism of the square and compass is seen in many ancient carvings and artwork. A stonecutter's square has been seen to represent the earth, while the compass has related to the arc of heaven. Thus their union has represented the union of heaven and earth. The Volume of Sacred Law can also represent God's communication to man through scripture and inspired writings. The triple symbol can also be seen as representing God's expression through the creation of heaven and earth.

The Three Great Lights are also consistent with the three tier system of Blue Lodge Masonry. One way of interpreting the triple symbolism is seeing human nature as divided into three parts - body, mind, and soul with a Degree for each part. In the same way, the Three Great Lights are the guiding principals of the three natures: the Square to the body, the Compass to the mind, and the Volume of Sacred Law for the soul.

Presentation of the Lambskin Apron

The Apron is at once an emblem of innocence and the badge of a Mason. By innocence is meant clean thinking and clean living, a loyal obedience to the laws of the Craft and sincere good will one's Brethren. The Badge of a Mason signifies, among other things, that Masons are workers and builders. Other aspects of this most visible vesture of our Fraternity should be mentioned. The apron as a mark of distinction has been found in many similar organizations of initiatory nature including the Essenes and the Mythraic Mysteries, and has been conspicuous on statues of some Egyptian and Greek deities. The lamb has always been a symbol of innocence and sacrifice. There are two senses in which innocence is being used here. Innocence in one sense is free from moral defect. The other sense used is that of being new born.

Another consideration of the white lambskin apron is that the Sign of the Ram begins at the Spring Equinox - the time of year that life is renewed. The Masonic Apron is made up of two parts: a square and a triangle, representing four and three respectively. The symbolism of these numbers, as well as their sum, should be studied in connection with the form of the apron in the different degrees. Finally, it should be mentioned that the word candidate comes from the Latin candidatus which means, “clothed in white.”

Working Tools of an Entered Apprentice

The Working Tools presented to the candidate were those used by the ancient operative craftsman in the erection of the building on which he was working. To the Speculative Mason, these represent the moral habits and forces by which man shapes and reshapes the essence of his human nature. By these symbolic tools, he also fits his own behavior to society and community. While they do not contain the whole philosophy of Masonry, the various Working Tools allocated to the three degrees, by their very presence, declare that there is constructive work to be done; and by their nature, indicate the direction this work is to take.

The Working Tools of this degree are specified as the twenty-four inch gauge and the common gavel. The symbolic description of these tools is provided in the ritual and the Monitor, so there is no need to repeat that here. It is interesting that one tool (gauge) is used passively and the other (gavel) is used actively. One is a tool of measurement and calculation, while the other is one of force. One tool decides what to keep, while the other gets rid of the rest.

The three parts may also be seen to represent the tripartite nature of the soul defined by Plato: the desirous, emotional, and mental. When properly cultivated, they embody the virtues temperance, fortitude, and prudence. These three virtues combined in proper order promote the supreme virtue of the whole self: equilibrium or justice.

The Northeast Corner

The Northeast Corner is traditionally the place where the cornerstone (the first stone) of a building is laid. The Apprentice is thus placed, because from here he will erect his own temple by the principles of Freemasonry. Other considerations on the northeast corner are the following. The north in Masonry is attributed to darkness and the east to light. Therefore, the northeast is a place midway between darkness and light. Being midway, it is also symbolic of equilibrium. Furthermore, this spot representing equal light and darkness corresponds with the point of the Spring Equinox when the nighttime is equal to the daytime. There is some evidence that the lambskin apron was presented to the candidate at one time in the northeast corner of the lodge.

It needs to be mentioned that there is a seeming contradiction of this symbolism with physical reality. If we imagine the lodge's boundaries to be the eastern and western horizons, with the north and south walls being the Tropic of Cancer and Capricorn (where the sun reaches it northern and southern limits), then the day that the sun rises in the northeast corner of the “lodge” is the Summer Solstice near St. John the Baptist's Day. Sometimes symbolism overlaps, but in many cases it is a hint at a deeper meaning.

The Lecture of This Degree

The Lectures given to the candidate by the Worshipful Master are intended to elaborate certain phases of the ritual, giving a broader explanation of the ceremonies in order for the candidate to understand the lessons of Freemasonry. The four cardinal virtues of Temperance, Fortitude, Prudence and Justice are explained here as well as the three tenets of Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth.

The lodge is dedicated to Saint John the Baptist and Saint John the Evangelist. Freemasonry long ago chose as its patron saints John the Baptist and John the Evangelist. By doing this, the Brethren arrived at the conclusion that their patron saints belonged to a Lodge and that it must have been in the city in which they lived - Jerusalem. By this tradition, all Lodges symbolically come from one at Jerusalem. By tradition, also, every Mason hails from such a Lodge. By claiming to come from this mythical Lodge, he proves that he hails from a “just and legally constituted Lodge.” The form of a Lodge is an oblong square, or a rectangle. It extends from East to West (horizon to horizon) and between North and South. The covering of the Lodge is the canopy of heaven. It is not a coincidence that the two major patrons of the Masonic Lodge have their birthdays near the Summer and Winter Solstices where the sun reaches its most northern and southern limits. The East in a Masonic Lodge does not necessarily mean the actual point of the compass. The East in the Lodge is the station of the Worshipful Master whence he dispenses light and instruction to all his brethren. Some Lodges may actually have the Master sitting in another compass location, but the important point is that the Master is always symbolically located in the East and the other symbolic points of the West, South and North are located in proper relation to the station of the Master. Further instruction is given in the long form of the lecture regarding the Supports of the Lodge: the three pillars of Wisdom, Strength and Beauty, which also relate to the three immovable Jewels of the Lodge: the Square, Plumb and Level, which still further relate to the three principal Officers and three Lesser Lights of the Lodge.

The three movable Jewels of the Lodge consist of the Rough and Perfect Ashlar and the Trestleboard. The Rough and Perfect Ashlars are precise symbols of the process of initiation. In a Hermetic sense, the Rough Ashlar is the prima materia, while the Perfect Ashlar is the Philosopher's Stone. The Ornaments of the Lodge consist of the Mosaic Pavement, the Indented Tessel, and the Blazing Star. We walk in a world of opposites: good and evil, night and day, hot and cold, love and hate. The Mosaic Pavement symbolizes this fact. Again, all of these symbols should be studied further to find out what they conceal and what they reveal.

The Charge

At the end of the ceremony and instruction in each degree, the candidate is charged to perform his Masonic duties. The Charge given him explains these duties especially in their relation to the particular Degree. These Charges should not be ignored as mere conventionalities.

The Proficiency

The Proficiency is a series of questions and answers which the candidate is required to commit to memory prior to being advanced to the next degree. Among other things, it is intended to:

  1. Teach each candidate the language of Freemasonry.

  2. Fix in his memory the teachings and structure of the Degree.

  3. Impress upon his consciousness the different points of the Obligation.

  4. Give each candidate an ancient method to contemplate the meanings behind the degree.

  5. Give the new candidate a point of contact with an established member.

The long form Proficiency became optional in 1998. Currently, a candidate must only demonstrate proficiency in the Obligation and Modes of Recognition of each degree. However, each candidate can still choose to complete his Proficiency in the long form.

The Language of Freemasonry

Why is the language of Freemasonry so different from that which we normally use? This question is often asked by new members of our Fraternity. The Ritual of Freemasonry is a product of the early decades of the 18th century. It contains much of the language of that time period and other words and phrases from the very old work have been incorporated. This is why the language is written and spoken as it is. If the time and effort is spent to study the words of our Ritual, one will discover that the thoughts and teachings imparted cannot be put in fewer words and still retain their meaning.

When to Rise and When to be Seated

The gavel in the hands of the Master of a Lodge is one of the symbols of authority by which he governs. When the gavel is sounded once in the East at the beginning of Lodge, the Brethren must come to order. Two raps call the principle Officers to their feet, and three raps mean that all Brethren must stand. If everyone is standing, one rap seats everyone in the Lodge. If the Worshipful Master addresses you by name, arise, face the East, give the due guard and sign of the degree and listen to his instructions. If you wish to speak, arise and wait until the Master recognizes you. Give the due guard and sign of the degree, and then address your remarks to him.

Subjects Not Proper for Discussion in Lodge

Sectarian religion and politics should not be addressed in Lodge, and there are good reasons for this. When we meet in a Lodge, we are all on a common level, and are not subject to the classes and distinctions of the outside world. Each Brother is entitled to his own beliefs and convictions. Our objective is to unite men, not to divide them. These subjects create honest differences of opinion that might well cause friction between brethren.

There will also be subjects concerning the Lodge's business that should not be discussed. All deliberations should be kept within the bounds of propriety and everyone should show tolerance for the opinion of others. Every Master wants harmony in his Lodge. Once a matter has been put to vote in the Lodge and a decision is made, the decision should be accepted by all members, regardless of how they voted. We try to teach every Mason to be a good citizen and to perform his civic duties. We do not try to keep anyone from expressing his opinion or from serving his city, county, state, or nation, in an honorable manner. Anyone who serves in political office should not act politically as a Freemason, nor use the name of Freemasonry in exercising his political rights, such as showing affiliation with any Lodge in his campaign advertising.

The Worshipful Master

Why is the presiding officer of the Lodge called Worshipful? This is an Old English word meaning, “worthy of respect.” Since he is chosen by the Brethren, they deem him to have sufficient wisdom, integrity and Masonic knowledge to govern the Lodge properly. Why is the Worshipful Master's station in the East? In the world of nature, the sun rises in the East to shed light and luster on earth. In a like manner, it is the province of the Master to be the source of Masonic knowledge for his Brethren as they “approach the East in search of light.” Why does the Master wear a hat in the Lodge? He wears the hat, and the remainder of the Brethren remain uncovered, for several reasons. Keeping the head covered while others are uncovered has long been a symbol of superior rank. Men, as a mark of respect, usually uncover in the presence of those they deem to be of superior rank. Also, it is possible that the Worshipful Master wears a hat because King Solomon wore a crown as a mark of dignity. The title Master is not unlike the Master of a ship or one who has received a Masters Degree in his chosen discipline. He is capable of teaching his subject - thus imparting “light” or knowledge.

The Tiler

The Tiler guards the avenues approaching the Lodge. A Lodge is said to be “duly tiled” when the necessary precautions have been taken to guard against intrusion by cowans, eavesdroppers or other unauthorized persons. (A cowan is one who tries to masquerade as a Mason. He has not done the work but says he has in order to gain admittance. An eavesdropper is one who tries to steal the secrets of our Society. He would forge a dues card or may find one and try to masquerade as the owner.) If a Brother comes to Lodge late and wants to join the meeting, the Tiler sees that he is properly clothed and then vouches for him as qualified to enter. It is the duty of the Tyler to inform the Junior Deacon when a qualified Brother wishes to enter the Lodge and to let the Brethren know in which Degree the Lodge is working.

No Horseplay or Hazing

There is no place for horseplay or hazing during our ceremonies, and the candidate can be assured that there will be none. The rituals are serious and solemn, and we try to teach moral lessons with great dignity. Anything which is told to the candidate in a joking manner serves only to desecrate the honorable purposes of Freemasonry. The candidate should have no apprehension about entering a Lodge. He is always entering a society of friends and brothers where he will be treated with dignity and decorum at all times.

The Heart of the Masonic Family

Freemasonry is not just another fraternity or association of men banded together for social, political or economic advantages. Our foundation is built on a philosophy of friendship and brotherly love. We also make many worthwhile contributions to our society and community. For example, the California Grand Lodge manages two magnificent total care homes in Union City and Covina for our aged Brethren and their widows. In addition, the Masonic Home in Covina cares for disadvantaged children, both those who are related to a Mason and those who are not.

The Rights of an Entered Apprentice Mason

These are very limited, since he cannot vote or hold office. He is, however, entitled to a Masonic funeral. He can attend a Lodge while an Entered Apprentice Degree is being presented. He has a right to be instructed in his work and in matters pertaining to his degree.  He is entitled to apply for advancement to the Second Degree, when proficient in the Entered Apprentice Degree.

Responsibilities of an Entered Apprentice

An Entered Apprentice Mason has very few actual Lodge responsibilities. He must keep secret everything entrusted to him, conduct himself with proper decorum and diligently work to learn his proficiency and as much about the Craft as possible. He should not be content with learning the words letter-perfect, but should study the meanings also. If he cannot interpret these for himself, he should seek help from others. Complete faithfulness to his obligations and implicit obedience to the charge are among his important and lasting responsibilities. Freemasonry preserves a secrecy about all its work in the Lodge: it meets behind closed doors; it throws over its principles and teachings a garment of symbolism and ritual; its Art is a mystery; a great wall separates it from the world. Nor is its work easy to understand. If this be true, we urgently advise you not to be content with the letter and outward form of this, your beginning period, but to apply yourself with freedom, fervency and zeal to the sincere and thorough mastering of our Royal Art.