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beyond the northeast corner

The Entered Apprentice Degree


Richard h. sands


 IN THE DAYS when Masons were actual workers in stone, the Entered Apprentice was a young man who was just starting his career. For a period of seven years he apprenticed himself to a Master Mason, who taught him the rudiments of the trade. In return, the young man did much of the manual labor and learned the basic skills of masonry. At the end of that period the young Mason became a Fellow of the Craft, or Fellowcraft, and was then able to work for wages.

As an Entered Apprentice in Speculative Freemasonry, you did much the same. At that point in your Masonic career everything was new and unfamiliar. For this reason, the Entered Apprentice represents Youth, who is untried and unproven.

The Petition

A man is first prepared to be made a Mason in his heart. Thereafter, before he can be further prepared, he has to cross a number of hurdles which are duly specified in the Book of Constitutions. He must present an application, supported by the recommendation of two sponsors. His petition must be read to the Lodge and formally received by it. He must be investigated by a special committee named by the Worshipful Master. If it should report favorably, he must be balloted for by the lodge. If the ballot is favorable, then at last the candidate is eligible to be admitted into Freemasonry.

Until he enters the lodge for his initiation, he has no direct knowledge of Masonry. His entry is therefore like the entrance into a new world: he is "born into" the Craft. The First Degree is thus symbolic of birth and childhood. He enters the lodge helpless, indigent, unaware of his surroundings, uncertain what to expect, completely untrained in the use and meaning of the working tools.

Not only is he at the threshold of a new life; he is also setting about acquiring a new set of skills, just as if he were a youth newly apprenticed to the trade.

The work of the degree has two main functions. In the first place it must show the newcomer as quickly as possible the method of Masonic instruction. The lesson is hammered home, and he is told again and again that something is emblematic of, or figuratively represents, something else. Secondly, it must acquaint him with, or more correctly remind him of, the principles of moral truth and virtue. The new brother is a child in Masonry. "Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old he will not depart from it" (Proverbs 22:6). In life, as in Masonry, the most important lessons of childhood are those which shape our moral outlook.

Preparation in the Anteroom

The preparation of the candidate should be mental as well as physical. The tone is set when the Secretary asks the three questions, for they show that the atmosphere of the lodge at work is solemn and thoughtful.

Physically, every candidate for initiation into Masonry undergoes the same preparation. Masonry is no respecter of rank. The internal, and not the external, qualifications of a man are what it regards. The candidate is to divest himself of his rich apparel, his jeweled rings, his outward trappings of wealth and position, and assume the very same costume as the most destitute initiate. He is deprived of all metal, because he is to divorce himself from the material world, it likewise reflects the fact that the sound of metal was not heard at the building of Solomon's Temple (I Kings 5:7). He wears a hoodwink as an emblem of blindness; the lights of Masonry have not yet opened his eyes. It further serves as a safeguard, should there be any interruption before the obligation, he may be removed without having seen anything. Although the candidate is new born, he is not naked. Although he is full grown, he is not fully clothed. His garb partakes of both states, and is to remind him that he belongs to both worlds. His right arm is made bare as a vestige of the ancient custom, to show that he comes in friendship, with no concealed weapons. His left breast is made bare so that the Senior Deacon may apply a sharp instrument near the heart; it also demonstrates that he is a man. His left knee is made bare in anticipation of his posture when he takes the Obligation. His right foot is slip-shod in reference to the ancient Hebrew method of confirming an agreement (see Ruth 4:7). It is also a gesture of reverence, compare Exodus 4:5: "Put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground". The Cable Tow around his neck will render any attempt to retreat fatal by strangulation It further symbolizes the dangers about us, and suggests that we should submit to guidance by those who are more enlightened. Perhaps as well, since this is a birth, the cord is the symbolic attachment of the candidate to his mother lodge.

Rite of Discalceation

Certain details of this preparation are strikingly similar to the old Jewish rules laid down for the guidance of those who planned to visit the Temple, and preserved for us in the Talmud. "A man should not enter the Temple mount either with his staff in his hand or his shoe on his foot, or with his money tied up in his cloth, or with his money bag slung over his shoulder" (Tractate Berakoth 62b).

Taking off one’s shoes symbolizes humility and sincerity and that we are about to walk on clean or holy ground. We know this from the Bible (Exodus 3:5), God said to Moses, “put off thy shoes from thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.”  And in the Book of Ruth, “…man plucked off his shoe and gave it to his neighbor and this was a testimony in Israel.”

Duly and Truly Prepared

Your conductor was asked if you were duly and truly prepared, referring to the the manner in which you were clothed and otherwise vested. This was in order to demonstrate that our concern is with a man’s internal qualities rather than his worldly wealth and honors. Furthermore, by wearing these humble garments, the candidate is signifying the sincerity of his intentions.

Ask and You Shall Receive

You asked for membership because Masonry requires that you come of your own free will and accord.

You sought admission to the Lodge.

You knocked and all that Freemasonry has to offer was opened to you.

This was in accord with the spiritual promise – “Ask and you shall receive; Seek and you shall find; Knock and it shall be opened unto you.”

The Hoodwink

You were required to wear a hoodwink for a variety of reasons: 1) you were thereby forced to put your trust in your conductor to see that you came to no harm, 2) being unable to see heightened your sensitivity to sound, so that you listened more intently to what was being said, 3) this symbolized the darkness in which an uninitiated man stands as regards Masonry and 4) had you refused to participate in the ceremonies of the degree you may have been led out of the Lodge without having beheld the interior thereof.

Its removal came at a time when you could behold first the Three Great Lights in Freemasonry, thereby impressing them upon your memory.

The Cable-Tow

The external restraints that are placed upon man are symbolized by the Cable-tow. Masonically, it is purely symbolic, and its length differs for various brethren, which is considered to be the scope of a brother’s ability.

Its use in the degrees is again symbolic – the implication being that the candidate may be physically removed if he refuses to proceed with the degree. Its removal after the obligation indicates that this restraint is no longer needed since the candidate has assumed the irrevocable obligation of the degree.


After he has been prepared, the candidate stands outside the inner door of the lodge in a state of darkness, completely dependent on his guide. His admittance is not immediate; he has to be patient while a report is made to the Worshipful Master Even after permission is granted, he is prevented from hasty entrance and is reminded of the consequences that result from rashness or ill-considered action. So cautiously ought one to approach every new experience in life. As soon as we enter the world, a sharp point (representing the Sword of Justice) is pointed at the heart, and serves as a reminder to our conscience of our obligation to preserve the secrets of Masonry.

Questions at the Door

The questions asked of the candidate and his conductor while he stands at the door are very important. They should be asked in such a manner that he will catch their full significance.

The questions are basic to the principles of Masonry. Its doors are open to any man who truly believes in the existence of a Supreme Being and who humbly knocks to seek admission, but he must come of his own free will and accord.

The insistence that he offer himself freely and voluntarily is not due to an inflated notion of the worth of the Craft. The candidate is about to assume certain sacred obligations which will bind him for life. The moral responsibility for this action must be entirely his. He must not be able to shirk his duties on the grounds that he was enticed or led on to enter Masonry by the improper solicitation of friends, or by false hopes of material advantages that would accrue to him.

The Holy Saints John

John, the Baptist, and John, the Evangelist, were chosen early on as the Patron Saints of Freemasonry. The implication was that their patron saints belonged to a Lodge, and this Lodge must have been in the city of Jerusalem. It follows that all Lodges symbolically come from the one at Jerusalem and therefore, every Mason hails from such a Lodge.  By claiming to come from this mystical lodge he indicates that he hails from a “just and lawfully constituted Lodge.”

John, the Baptist, is an example of unshakeable firmness to the principles of right and an inflexible fidelity to God. On the other hand, John, the Evangelist, steadily urged the cultivation of brotherly love. Both were Godly and virtuous, and one was zealous and the other educated. These characteristics made them a natural choice as Patron Saints of Freemasonry.

The Prayer

After the candidate's reception, the ceremony of initiation begins with a prayer, impressing upon him once again that his new experience is one of reverence, and his answer to the question, “In Whom do you put your trust?” demonstrates that belief and trust in God are of prime importance. This is accomplished by a prayer.

Freemasonry teaches us that no man should ever enter upon any great or important undertaking without first invoking the blessing of Deity. This means that prayer is an essential part of Freemasonry: Lodges are always opened and closed with a prayer and prayer is often used in our ceremonies. Because we have members from many different religions, we offer our supplications to the “Grand Architect of the Universe” or “The Supreme Grand Master” and we close them with “In Thy Holy Name we pray” or just “Amen.”

The Rite of Circumambulation

The meaning of “Circumambulation” is to walk around some central point or object.  In the Lodgeroom, it is patterned most often after the movement of the sun as it is seen from the earth in the Northern Hemisphere, moving from East to West by way of the South.

The circumambulation of the lodge takes place with slow dignity, preferably to the accompaniment of suitable music. It is important that the Senior Deacon (the conductor) always be next to the altar so that the candidate’s journey around the altar enables the Brethren to observe that he is properly prepared, and also that he may be on the side furthest from the Volume of the Sacred Law, emblematically showing that he has not yet been accepted to search out Masonic truths on his own.  He is stopped in three locations, (a reference to the three gates of King Solomon’s Temple), to be examined as to his intentions and fitness to continue.

The movement is a progressive journey, from station to station, in search of attainment, and symbolizes that we as Masons should continually search for more light. It also reinforces the idea of dependence: We are taught from the first step to the last, that we live and walk not by sight, but by faith.

The Rite of Salutation

The act in which the candidate gives the signs at each station is called the Rite of Salutation. It is symbolic of his respect for and obedience to all just and duly constituted authorities as well as being a test of his ability to give the proper tokens and words.

At The Altar

The East is considered historically to be the source of light: that station in the heavens where the sun appears to dispel the darkness.  Masons are sons of light and truth; therefore, as we approach the Altar, we face the East.

The Altar is the central piece of furniture in the Lodge. Upon it rest the Holy Bible, square and compasses, the Three Great Lights in Masonry. Life in our Masonic Lodges is focussed on the Altar.  The principles for which the Three Great Lights stand should serve to guide all of our thoughts and actions both in the Lodge and abroad in the world.  The altar supporting the Three Great Lights should remind a Brother who stands before it that our lives are supported by faith.

The location of the Altar in the center of the Lodge symbolizes the place which God has in Masonry and which He should have in every person’s life.  The candidate approaches the altar in search of light and assumes his obligations there.  In the presence of God and his Brother Masons, he offers himself to the service of the Great Architect of the Universe and to mankind in general.

At the proper time and in the proper manner the candidate is asked to advance to the altar by one upright step. Your feet forming an angle of an oblong square.

At the altar he is asked the final qualifying question for his acceptance into the Order—whether he will bind himself with a vow of fidelity. If he consents, then before God and the lodge he promises on the Volume of the Sacred Law, and swears by the Volume of the Sacred Law, to keep inviolate the mysteries of the Order.

Why should the candidate be expected to promise solemnly to conform to Masonic usages and customs? His ignorance of what is involved is almost total. To give his assent in advance is almost like writing a blank check. It demonstrates that he has complete trust in the integrity of the questioner, of the lodge, and of the whole institution.

The Obligation

At the heart of each degree is the Obligation. When the candidate repeats the obligation and seals it, he has solemnly bound himself to Freemasonry and assumed certain duties which are his for the rest of his life even if he should someday leave the fraternity.

The most visible and audible evidence of the candidate’s sincerity is the Obligation. It binds the candidate to Freemasonry, and it also protects the Fraternity against someone revealing secrets that deal with modes of recognition and symbolic instruction. It is important that the candidate understand that the great truths that Masonry teaches are not secret, but the signs and words Freemasons use to identify brethren of the craft are considered secret and need to be treated accordingly. Similarly with the verbatim ritual; when you discuss Freemasonry with a non-Mason, just use your own words.

You might be tempted to think, since the obligation is a part of the ritual, and since much of the ritual is symbolic, that the obligation is also symbolic and not to be taken literally.  This is not true.  With the exception of the ancient penalties (explained to you later), which are, of course, symbolic, the whole of the obligation, both the positive and negative points, is to be taken literally.

You need to remember that you took this obligation of your own free will.  You were of sound and adult mind and were competent to accept full responsibility for your action; you were free to withdraw before taking it.  If afterwards you should be charged with violating any of the points you cannot seek to evade the consequences by pleading ignorance or inability at the time you gave the pledge.  This is in keeping with Freemasonry’s attitude toward the candidate throughout.

In short, at every step it is determined that you are competent and responsible for every promise you make and every pledge you give.  This is important because there is in Masonry a set of rules that regulate the individual’s conduct as a Mason.  These lay down what is expected of you in conduct, define Masonic offenses, and affix certain penalties.  The foundation of our disciplinary law is the obligation taken in the three degrees.

Furthermore, you took these obligations as binding without limit of time; that is, you accept them for the remainder of your natural life.  You may possibly, in the future, withdraw yourself from the Fraternity, or be suspended or expelled, but that will not ease you of your promise, because you made that pledge, not as a Lodge member, but as a man.

The Obligation includes a number of words which sound like synonyms. They serve to intensify the majesty and grandeur of the language, just as do similar repetitions in church liturgy. Nor are they mere airy verbiage, for each word has its distinct significance. Masons are "Free", and "Accepted" for reasons we have already discussed (see Chapter II above, page II-5). A lodge is "worthy" because it has worth or value. It is "worshipful", that is, "honorable"; in earlier times "to worship" meant simply "to honor". It is "warranted", that is, empowered to act in Masonic matters because it has its Warrant of Constitution from Grand Lodge. It is "just" because it has on its altar the unerring standard of justice, the open Volume of the Sacred Law. It is "regular" when it is duly entered on the Register of Grand Lodge, or of another grand lodge with whom we are in fraternal correspondence. One other word which requires explanation is "hele" (pronounced “hail”). This is an old word, no longer current in English except when we speak of "fueling in plants". It means "to hide" or "cover up", and contains the same root as "Hell" (the hidden place), "helmet" (a covering for the head), and probably "hole" (originally a cave, or covered place).

Does the writing of a book such as this violate the obligation of secrecy? No. Freemasonry is not a secret society; it is a society with secrets. The secrets which a Mason pledges himself never to write or to see written consist of certain of the ceremonies and the modes of recognition. They do not include Masonic truths, which are accessible to all. They may be found in the Volume of the Sacred Law, but their discovery and their interpretation are left to each man. The prime object of Masonry is to assist our brethren in discovering these tenets and principles.

When a child is born, he requires some time before his eyes become adjusted to his surroundings. So the initiate, even when surrounded by Masonic symbols and by brethren who are ready to assist him in interpreting them, remains in darkness until he has proved that he is properly prepared to comprehend the teachings of Masonry. Naturally, as soon as he reaches this point he wishes to be restored to the blessings of light. At the moment this desire is granted, he at once beholds the three great lights of Masonry, the symbols of truth and confidence, and of guidance into a more satisfactory and meaningful life. The Volume of the Sacred Law will provide him with the moral and spiritual lessons of life; the square will remind him to regulate his actions wisely, and the compasses will outline the proper paths of conduct. This is the beginning of his Masonic education. He is already a brother among brethren.

Penalties for Violation of the Obligation

We again reiterate that the ancient physical penalties incurred for willful violation of the Masonic Obligation are purely symbolic.

The Mason who violates his Obligation will subject himself to Masonic discipline that would include loss of membership in the Lodge and Fraternity, either by suspension or expulsion.  He will also lose the respect of other Masons.

The above mentioned penalties often are retained in our ritual to impress upon the mind of each Brother how seriously a violation is regarded by the members of the Fraternity.  The Obligations are voluntarily assumed, and every means possible is used to impress the new Mason with the solemnity and the necessity for faithful performance of them.

The Three Great Lights in Masonry

Freemasonry opens the Great Light upon her altar, not as one book of one faith, but as the Book of the Will of the Grand Architect.  Our mysteries are not just for any one Lodge, nation, or religion but they are to bind men together throughout the world.

The Square is a symbol of morality, truthfulness, and honesty.  To “act on the square” is to act honestly.

The Compasses are a symbol of personal restraint, of skill, and of knowledge.

The Square and the Compasses are seen and recognized by the general public as the symbols of Freemasonry.

The Volume of the Sacred Law or Holy Bible is one of the Three Great Lights in Freemasonry and is an indispensable part of the furniture of the lodge.  If the candidate is of a religion not represented by the Holy Bible, for example, Hinduism, he may take his obligation upon the writings sacred to his religion.  This is to ensure that his obligation will be binding upon his conscience.

No lodge in this country may stand officially open unless the Holy Bible is opened upon its altar with the square and compasses displayed thereon, indicating the Degree in which the Lodge is working.

Because it is the rule and guide for our faith, the open Bible signifies that we should regulate our conduct according to its teachings.

The Lesser Lights

The lesser lights are situated about the altar; they are not those at the stations of the principal officers. They are called lesser lights because by them we are enabled to see the great lights which lie on the altar whenever the lodge is open. They are also symbols of authority. The sun, the source of material light, opens and closes the day with regularity and provides light and heat for the earth. It may be termed the ruler of the day. Since it reaches its maximum strength at midday, when it is high in the southern sky, it is represented by the lesser light at the south side of the altar. Similarly, the moon provides light during the night, after the sun has gone down in the west. It is represented by the lesser light toward the west, at the north‑west corner of the altar. Just as these two heavenly bodies provide light and energy for the physical world, so in the lodge room the Worshipful Master provides nourishment for our spiritual natures. As the sun rises in the east, and as learning originated in the east, so is the Worshipful Master placed in the east to enlighten and instruct the brethren in the moral truths revealed by the great lights at the altar. Thus the third of the lesser lights, which is placed toward the east, at the north-east corner of the altar, represents the Worshipful Master of the lodge. There is no light in the north because in the northern hemisphere the sun never enters the northern half of the sky.

With these matters in mind, we urge you to ponder the teachings of the Craft as you progress from degree to degree.  In them is a ceaseless inspiration and an inexhaustible appeal.  They are tenets of Freemasonry because always and everywhere they have been tenets of successful human life.

The Rite of Destitution

The Rite of Destitution, in which the candidate discovers he has nothing of value about his person, reminds a Mason of how he feels in this situation – embarrassed, poor and penniless. When a Brother comes to his aid, he is reminded also of the obligation of every Mason to alleviate, as far as his resources permit, the distress of his fellow men, particularly his Masonic brothers.

This is a lesson that no Freemason will ever forget. It may be that for the first time in your life you were truly destitute – maybe bewildered, maybe embarrassed. It also symbolizes that those who seek your aid should willingly find it, if you have the power to give it.  It is not necessarily money.  It may be a kind word, a pat on the back or a smile when it is needed.  The Rite of Destitution teaches compassion.

The Rite of Investiture

After receiving knowledge and instruction in symbolic form, the new brother is at last given a tangible symbol of Masonry to wear as his own and eventually to carry away, in the form of the apron. This is a very ancient form of garment, and according to Holy Writ was the earliest clothing that our first parents made for themselves (Genesis 3:7). At any rate, inasmuch as stone-workers are as old as civilization itself, the humble apron of the operative mason can claim a greater antiquity than the heraldic symbols of riches and power, the Golden Fleece and the Roman Eagle.

 An early Greek legend recounts how Jason and the Argonauts sailed off in search of the Golden Fleece; the ancient tradition put the date of this expedition at about 1200 B.C. The name became symbolic of treasure, and was given to a new order of knighthood (L'Ordre de la Toison d'or) founded in 1429 by Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy. His descendants intermarried with other royal families, and in due course the Golden Fleece came to be the highest order of chivalry in both Spain and Austria. It continued as such down into the present century. The eagle, on the other hand, was in ancient times sacred to Jupiter, King of the Gods. At an early date it was adopted as one of the five totems or emblems of the divisions of the Roman army. In 104 B.C. the others were discarded, and the eagle became the badge borne on the standard of every Roman legion, or regiment. As a result it came to stand for the Roman Empire, and was taken over in time by various emperors who liked to think of themselves as successors of the Romans: the German Kaisers, the Russian Czars, and Napoleon Bonaparte.

 But not only is the Mason's apron ancient. It also bestows as much honor as do the trappings of the highest distinctions conferred by kings and princes. Perhaps the oldest, and even today the most coveted, of these knightly ranks is the Most Noble Order of the Garter, instituted about 1348 by King Edward III of England. Its insignia include an eight-pointed silver star and a garter of dark blue velvet. Another title of equivalent rank and date was the Order of the Star (L'Ordre de l'Étoile), which was founded by King John II of France in 1351. It fell into abeyance however, and has long been extinct.

 The Apron also signifies that Freemasons are workers rather than drones, builders rather than obstructionists.  Both the symbolic lambskin material and the white color of the Apron make it an emblem of innocence and purity.  The Apron is a badge of distinction.

 The Mason's apron is worn only in a context of love and harmony. Private piques and quarrels have no place within the tyled recesses of the lodge. As a symbol, it admonishes us to protect our spiritual persons from the spot of sin or the stain of vice. To the newly initiated brother it serves as a constant reminder not only that he now owes certain duties to his brethren, but also that they have now accepted him as a brother Mason

The Working Tools

The working tools presented to the candidate are two of those used by the ancient operative craftsman in the construction of buildings. In speculative Masonry, the twenty-four inch gauge and the common gavel are symbolic of those moral and spiritual values, habits and forces by means of which man is enabled to reshape the crude and often stubborn material of his character, to adjust himself to the needs and requirements of human society. The tools by their very presence declare that there is work to be done, and by their very nature indicate the direction this work is to take.  The 24-inch gauge teaches us to properly divide our time, while the gavel teaches us to reshape our character. If we do not take the Twenty-four Inch Gauge into the profane world and by its division number the hours for the working of a constructive purpose, we miss the practical application of Masonic Labor and Masonic Charity.

Just as a stone needs to be measured or shaped or carved to fit into a place or function, so also does a man’s mind and his character.  Each man has his own proper place in society – as a leader, as a worker, as a citizen, as head of a family, as a neighbor, as a Lodge member.  Will he fit into his proper place or will he be a misfit?  The answer will be decided by how thoroughly and intelligently he uses on himself the methods and influences that are necessary to give correct shape to his life.

How happy are those brethren who happen to be also operative masons! All day long as they work they have before them the tangible emblems of the Masonic virtues. The Freemason too is a workman, engaged in building the internal temple dedicated to the glory of God and the welfare of mankind. The Entered Apprentice is not yet fully qualified, and he is given only those tools which serve to shape the stones. From the twenty-four-inch gauge he learns to compute the time and labor that will be required for completing the work. If he wishes to live respected and die regretted, he must be ready to spend many hours strengthening his temple, adorning it, and protecting its foundations. The building blocks as they come from the quarries may be rough, ill-formed, and ugly. The rough stone and the perfect stone serve to remind him that the rough spots must be made smooth with the aid of the common gavel, so that the beauty and usefulness of his temple may be enhanced. In time, by dint of hard work and determination, it will receive a fine finish, and will stand as a memorial to a life well spent.

The North-East Corner

In operative Masonry, the north-east corner is the traditional location of the cornerstone or foundation stone of a building.  Both the stone and its location signify a beginning. In speculative Masonry, the Entered Apprentice is placed at this point to signify that he has begun his Masonic life. The symbolism of the North-east corner is further expanded by its location midway between the darkness of the North and the light of the East. The Brother has left the darkness of the North which symbolizes lack of knowledge of the Masonic life, and is moving toward the light of knowledge which comes from the East.  Thus the Entered Apprentice has laid the foundation stone of his Masonic life and must now build his character from the light of the teachings that abound in the East.

 The Entered Apprentice Lecture

Part I of the lecture of the Entered Apprentice Degree is often given as the lecturer conducts the newly-made Brother around the lodge room and can be extremely effective. As the Brother is conducted around the lodge room, he is reminded of what happened to him and the reasons are then explained.

The lecture begins by reminding the Brother that he was divested of all metals for two reasons: first that he should carry nothing offensive or defensive into the Lodge and second that at the building of King Solomon’s Temple there was not heard the sound of any tool of iron.

King Solomon’s Temple

The frequent references to King Solomon’s Temple in this and other Degrees are allegorical. The Temple is a symbol of perfection and a representation of the idea that man is actually a temple of God. To our knowledge, an organized craft of Operative masons did not come into existence until many centuries after the reign of Solomon.  Our ritual is based upon Masonic legends connected with both Solomon and the Temple at Jerusalem which have helped enrich the symbolism.

This symbolism is further enhanced by the fact that the Sanctum Sanctorum or Holy of Holies of King Solomon’s Temple, where the Ark of the Covenant sat, was the residing place of God. Hence, the destruction of the Temple and the loss of man’s inherent oneness with God is the start of a search for Divine Truth.

The candidate has entered a new phase of life and is about to construct a temple of character and conduct which no one but he can build. Since he is still an Entered Apprentice, he requires instruction in the proper formulation of the plans and the process of construction. He is therefore placed in the north-east corner of the lodge, the symbolic meeting place of darkness and light. On this new dawn he is ready to start work in a new and challenging endeavor. All buildings, physical or moral, require a foundation stone. For the Mason's temple it is Charity.

Here the candidate, who himself represents the cornerstone, declares publicly his attitude toward charity. He is invited to make a charitable donation. Naturally he is still influenced by the values of the material world, and since he has been divested of all money and metallic substances he has nothing material to offer. Even so, though he may not yet realize it, he does have much to give in the name of true charity. He has himself to offer, and his God-given talents, for the good of his fellow men. In Masonry charity has the rich connotation of love, of kindly good will and regard for others. The true Mason will be slow to anger and ready to forgive. He will support a falling brother and warn him of approaching danger. He will not open his ear to slander and will close his lips to unkindly reproach.  Nor will he limit such benevolent sentiments to those who are bound to him by ties of kindred or social association. His love will extend to any brother, no matter where he may be found beneath the canopy of Heaven. A worthy Mason who is destitute will find in every clime a brother and in every land a home.

Part II of the Entered Apprentice lecture is primarily concerned with the lodge. It shows how the newly initiated brother may see moral lessons no matter where he looks in the lodge room. This method of teaching by symbolism is of course very old (see above, pages I-7-9). Before the Egyptian hieroglyphic writing was first deciphered, about 1815, Europeans used to believe that these carefully carved inscriptions, with their representations of men, animals, tools, buildings, and other things, were symbolic, and that the figure of a lion, for instance, meant "war". Now that these texts can be read, we know that this interpretation was erroneous. Even so, in older writings, the Egyptian signs are still sometimes cited as an early example of symbolic teaching. Other men who actually did express abstract notions by visible symbols were the Pythagoreans, a religious fraternity founded by the Greek thinker Pythagoras of Samos. About 530 B.C. he settled in Croton, in southern Italy, and his followers congregated in the vicinity. They devoted themselves particularly to the study of mathematics, and they came to feel that, in some sense, everything in the world was a number, or could be represented by a number. Thus we are told that in their system "justice" was the numeral four. We know that they venerated the number ten, and swore by it, because it contains "the fount and root of eternal nature".

The Lodge

The beginning of the second part of the Entered Apprentice lecture defines a Lodge as being a constitutional number of Masons, duly assembled with the Holy Bible, square and compasses and a charter or warrant empowering them to work.

The Charter or Warrant

The charter from the Grand Lodge is an essential part of every lodge. It originated from the need for legality and uniformity in the actual workings of Masonry. Thus the charter gives credibility to the lodge and establishes its legality.  When visiting a strange Lodge it will be your duty to examine their charter to ascertain that they are duly constituted.  If they do not have one, you must withdraw.

High Hill or Low Vale

The ancient meeting places of lodges, and for that matter certain religious observances, were secret and considered to be on holy ground.  The high hill or low vale was easier to guard against the approach of cowans and eavesdroppers.  (A cowan is an imposter posing as a Mason, while an eavesdropper wishes to learn our secrets.)

The Form of a Lodge

The form and extent of a Lodge is an oblong square extending from East to West between North and South, from the earth to the Heavens and from the surface to the center because in Masonic ritual it is symbolic of the world.  The particular form harkens back to early times when men believed that the earth was square and the sky a solid dome. Some legal codes state that he who holds a plot of land also has rights to the earth beneath and to the air above. In this sense, a lodge room extends from the center of the world to the heavens.

The lodge is symbolic of the individual Mason. The altar at the center of the lodge, with the Volume of the Sacred Law resting on it, symbolizes the presence of God in the center of our spiritual temple. Our lodges stand on holy ground, that is, they are dedicated to God. Inevitably they remind us of three other offerings which met with God's approval, three offerings which by a curious coincidence were all made at the same place, Mount Moriah in Jerusalem; for Abraham, see Genesis 22:2; for David, see I Chronicles 21 :18‑26; for Solomon, see II Chronicles 3:1. Our lodges are situated due east and west, in a symbolic, not a geographical sense. Since the lodge room represents the temple of Solomon as well as the individual Mason, it may be said to reproduce its orientation (see below, page XI-5). The Tabernacle of Moses was similarly oriented (Exodus 26:22). Again, there are two good symbolic reasons for setting the Worshipful Master in the east (see above, page X-11).

This vast fabric is supported by three Grand Pillars called Wisdom, Strength and Beauty. The three pillars which are often depicted about the altar are replicas of the three different types of column used by ancient Greek architects. That to the east is Ionic, which exhibits a chaste moderation between severity and elaboration. It represents wisdom, and Solomon King of Israel, who was noted for his wisdom, and likewise the Worshipful Master, the humble representative of King Solomon To the west is the Doric pillar, austere and massive, which in the same way represents strength, Hiram King of Tyre, and the Senior Warden. At the south is the slender Corinthian pillar, with its flamboyant decoration of acanthus leaves. It stands for beauty, for the craftsman Hiram Abif, and for the Junior Warden. Once again we are reminded that the altar, the very throne of God, is in the center, surrounded by these three divine attributes. Since the lodge room extends as high as the heavens, the ceiling is in fact a celestial canopy, the starry sky, an ethereal mansion from which all goodness emanates. Nor are the earthly lodges of our pilgrimage forever sundered from the Grand Lodge above. They are joined by a line of union, which was seen by Jacob in his dream at Bethel (Genesis 28:12), "a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven". For Masons, the way up begins at the Volume of the Sacred Law, and successive stages in the ascent are marked by the three theological virtues. Once again charity is preeminent.

Jacob’s Ladder

The covering of a Lodge is a clouded canopy or a starry-decked heaven where all good Masons hope to arrive by the aid of that theological ladder which Jacob in his vision saw ascending from earth to heaven, the three principal rounds of which are denominated Faith, Hope and Charity.  The ladder admonishes us to have faith in God, hope in immortality and charity for all mankind.

The Furniture of the Lodge

The Furniture of a Lodge is the three Great Lights in Masonry: the Holy Bible, the Square and the Compasses. The Bible is dedicated to God, the square to the Master and the compasses to the Craft.

The Ornaments of a Lodge

Having dealt with the siting and structure of the lodge, the lecturer now turns to its interior. He begins with the ornaments. The Ornaments of the Lodge are the Mosaic Pavement, the Indented Tessel and the Blazing Star. The mosaic pavement (used in lodges that have tile floors)—the name has nothing to do with Moses or the Mosaic Law—is inlaid with pebbles or tiles of different colors. It is emblematic of human life, checkered with good and evil. It serves to remind us that life is not of one unvaried hue, but that in it the dark alternates with the light. The original which we copy is Solomon's Temple, which according to Masonic tradition was ornamented with a mosaic floor. Just as the star gleams in the center of the pavement, so the radiance of the Grand Architect of the Universe illuminates the checkered pattern of our lives. Just as the pavement is enclosed within an indented skirting, so our lives, even in their most somber cast, are encompassed by the blessings and comforts of heaven.

The Lesser Lights

All lodges have three lights situated east, west and south.  None in the North. None in the North because of the situation of King Solomon’s Temple, it being situated so far north of the ecliptic that the sun or moon at meridian height could dart no rays in at the northern part of it, so we Masonically term the North a place of darkness.

The Jewels of the Lodge

All Lodges have six jewels: three movable and three immovable. The square, level and plumb are considered to be immovable because the three principal officers of the lodge wear them and are always in the East, West and South. The movable jewels are the rough ashlar, the perfect ashlar and the trestleboard. The rough ashlar is a stone as taken from the quarry in its rude and natural state. The perfect ashlar is a stone made ready by the workman to be adjusted by the tools of the Fellowcraft. Of the three movable jewels, the Trestle Board is associated with the Worshipful Master, the Rough Ashlar with the newly initiated candidate and the Perfect Ashlar with the brother who has undergone further training, and has learned the lessons of life as a true Mason. In another sense, the Trestle Board represents the floor of the lodge, that is, the foundation of our lives. On it the Master indicates the plan of the temple beautiful, not explicit in every detail, but merely indicating the guide lines which the workman must follow if he is to be a successful builder. The Rough Ashlar represents the life of the candidate in its original natural state, as well as the workshop where he may fashion his life in accordance with his own inclinations, but also, if he is wise, in accordance with the divine plan. The Perfect Ashlar represents a flawless edifice planned and reared by the Grand Architect of the Universe as a model for the brethren to follow. It portrays a state of moral perfection, inspiring and all but unattainable, unless it be by a virtuous education, one's own endeavors, and the blessing of God. The name jewel is above all appropriate for it, because it stands for something precious—a continual moral and spiritual guide for the brother Mason.

The Point Within the Circle

The most complex and meaningful of all Masonic symbols is probably the Point Within the Circle, which not only sets the Volume of the Sacred Law or Holy Bible as our rule for living, but also sets the limits upon our individual actions. It may also have reference to God, the individual person.  The parallel lines represent the two Saints John, who were perfect parallels in Christianity as well as Masonry, and upon the vertex rests the Book of Holy Scriptures, which points out the whole duty of man. While a man keeps himself so circumscribed, it is impossible that he should materially err.

The Three Principal Tenets of Freemasonry

The Principal Tenets of Freemasonry are Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth.  These three are given the greatest emphasis, though others must not be overlooked.

It is not uncommon for men to consider Brotherly Love, while highly desirable, as not practicable, and therefore but a vision to be dreamed about but never possessed.  It is challenging for Freemasonry to call these “tenets”, thus stating that they are both obviously and necessarily true.  Unless you grasp this and see that the principles of Freemasonry are self-evident realities, not visionary ideals, you will never understand Masonic teachings.  For Masonry does not tell us that the principles of Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth ought to be true, that it would be better for us all if they were true.  It tells us that they are true.

What then is Brotherly Love?  Manifestly, it means that we place on another man the highest possible valuation as a friend, a companion, an associate, a neighbor.  Our relationship with a brother is its own justification, its own reward.  Brotherly Love is one of the supreme values without which life is lonely, unhappy, ugly: This is not a hope or dream, but a fact.  Freemasonry builds on that fact, provides opportunities for us to have such fellowship, encourages us to understand and to practice it, and to make it one of the laws of our existence; one of our Principal Tenets.

Relief is one of the forms of charity.  We sometimes think of charity as relief from poverty.  It is more than that.  Our conception of Relief is broader and deeper.  There sometimes enters the problem of readjustment, rehabilitation, keeping the family together, ‘childrens’ education, and various other matters vital to the welfare of those concerned; through the whole process there is need for spiritual comfort, for the assurance of a sincere and continuing interest and friendship, which is the real translation of our first Principal Tenet, Brotherly Love.

Masonic Relief takes it for granted that any man, no matter how industrious and frugal he may be, through sudden misfortune or other conditions over which he has no control, may be in temporary need of a helping hand.  To extend it is not what is generally described as charity, but is one of the natural and inevitable acts of brotherhood.  Any conception of brotherhood must include this willingness to give necessary aid.  Therefore, Relief, Masonically understood, is a tenet.

By truth, the last of the Principal Tenets, is meant something more than the search for truths in the intellectual sense, though that is included.  Truth is a divine attribute and the foundation of virtue.  To be good and true is the first lesson we are taught in Masonry.  In any permanent brotherhood, members must be truthful in character and habits, dependable, men of honor, on whom we can rely to be faithful fellows and loyal friends.  Truth is a vital requirement if a brotherhood is to endure, and we therefore accept it as such.

The Four Points of Entrance

The guttural, pectoral, manual and pedal are the four points of entrance of a Mason into Lodge. They are illustrated by the Four Cardinal Virtues of Temperance, Fortitude, Prudence and Justice.

These Four Cardinal Virtues provide the Mason with a code of conduct, including a temperate life, avoiding excess in all things, bravery in the face of strife and conflict, careful thought before acting and even-handedness in dealing with others.

 Often at the four corners of the lodge are emblems of the four cardinal virtues, temperance (or self‑control), fortitude (or bravery), prudence (or wisdom), and justice. They are called "cardinal" virtues from the Latin word cardo, meaning "a hinge"; they are the virtues on which all others hinge or depend. Their importance has been recognized since ancient times. They were discussed as a group by the Greek philosopher Plato (who lived about 429‑347 B.C.), in his Republic.

Chalk, Charcoal and Clay

These are symbolic of freedom, fervency and zeal, which is how we as Entered Apprentices should serve our masters; there is nothing freer than chalk, nothing more fervent than charcoal and nothing more zealous than clay or our mother earth, which is continually employed for man’s use and constantly reminding us of the return of our bodies to the embrace of the earth, from whence they came.

The Charge to the Newly Initiated Candidate

In its essentials this Charge is one of the oldest pieces of Masonic ritual which has come down to us intact. It has been used in much its present form since 1735 (see above, page VII-18,19). If it is delivered with deliberation, sincerity, and eloquence, it can be one of the more impressive features of the ceremony. It should never be omitted simply to save time, since it is an integral part of the degree. It teaches the candidate how he can practice Masonry beyond the limits of the lodge room.

At the outset he is reminded that he has been elevated to membership in an ancient and honorable society, which has numbered the great as well as the good in its ranks (see above, Chapter IV). He is reminded of the three great duties, to God, his neighbor and himself. He is to revere God at all times, to seek His aid through prayer, and to respect Him as a source of help in time of trouble. He is taught that no man is an island unto himself. Man is a social creature, and needs the companionship and co-operation of other men. The Mason will practice the Golden Rule, temper justice with mercy, and offer relief, both physical and spiritual, to his brethren. He is to regulate his own life so as to operate at peak efficiency and attain the limits of his potential (i.e., by avoiding all irregularity and intemperance).

As a citizen, a Mason is to be a peaceful subject, loyal to his government and his country. In summary, he is to practice the four cardinal virtues publicly and privately; and he is called upon to exercise that virtue which may justly be called the distinguishing characteristic of a Mason's heart. He is to recognize the importance of secrecy, fidelity, and obedience, not only as a Mason, but as a man among men. Finally he is enjoined to be particularly careful not to recommend a man for membership in the Craft unless convinced that he will conform to our tenets and rules.

The Language of Freemasonry

Freemasons take great pride in preserving the ancient ritual with minimal changes. The Ritual of Freemasonry is a product of the early decades of the eighteenth century. It contains much of the language of that century and other words and phrases from the medieval English that have been incorporated into the Ritual. This is why the ritual language of Freemasonry is written and spoken as it is.

Behavior in Lodge

 The gavel in the hands of the Master of the Lodge is one of the symbols of authority by which he governs. When the gavel is sounded in the East, at the beginning of Lodge, the Brethren must come to order.  Two raps call the Officers to their feet, and three raps mean that all Brethren must stand.  One rap seats anyone in the Lodge who is standing and is also used to call up a single individual.

If the Master addresses you by name, arise, face the East, give the sign (in other Jurisdictions often the due guard and sign) of the appropriate degree, and listen to his instruction. If you wish to speak, arise, face the East and wait until the Master recognizes you; give the (due guard and) sign of the appropriate degree, then address your remarks to him.

When entering or retiring from an open Lodge, you must always approach the altar, salute the flag and the Master (vice versa on retiring) and then go about your business. As you approach the altar, glance at the positions of the points of the compasses and that will tell you on which degree the Lodge is open.

When prayers are given, all Masons stand and bow their heads. No Lodge can be opened, stay open, or be closed, without prayer which is offered by the Master or Chaplain. The prayer should avoid offense or sectarianism in the Lodge; in Michigan, the opening and closing prayers are printed as part of the ritual.  At the end of the prayer, each member responds with the words “So Mote It Be,” which means “So May It Ever Be.”

The Rights of an Entered Apprentice Mason

An Entered Apprentice may visit or sit in a Lodge only if it is open on the First Degree and then only when accompanied by a Brother Master Mason who can attest to the fact that he is an Entered Apprentice, since he does not carry a dues card. An Entered Apprentice cannot vote or hold office.  In most jurisdictions, he is not entitled to walk in public Masonic processions.  The public assumes that every man therein is a full-fledged Mason, and judges each one and the Craft accordingly.

 As a Mason, he possesses certain important rights and privileges: 1) the right to be instructed in his work and in matters pertaining to his degree, 2) the right to attend other Entered Apprentice degrees in his own lodge, 3) the right to attend Entered Apprentice degrees in other lodges if he has a Master mason to attest to his being an Entered Apprentice, 4) with the approval of the Master, the right to present any portion of the Entered Apprentice degree to others, 5) the right to apply for advancement to a higher degree, 6) the right to make himself known to other Masons as an Entered Apprentice via the modes of recognition, and 7) the right to be buried with Masonic honors.

 It is the duty of the Entered Apprentice to learn the Masonic teachings contained in this degree. Unless a man can prove he is a Mason, he cannot visit a Lodge where he is not known. Furthermore, other Masons may have to prove themselves to him just as he may have to prove himself to them.  If he does not know the work, he cannot receive proof any more than he can give it. For this reason he should learn the proficiency in all three degrees as he completes the work.

 Complete faithfulness to his obligation, and implicit obedience to the charge is among his important and lasting responsibilities.  An Entered Apprentice is still on probation, a Mason in the making, passing through a period of trial and testing, his relationship to the Craft being like that of a student to the graduate.  The clue to his position is furnished by the word “Apprentice”, which means learner, and his chief task is, therefore, to learn.

The Responsibilities of an Entered Apprentice

The responsibilities of an Entered Apprentice are relatively few: He must 1) conduct himself with proper decorum, 2) try to learn as much about Freemasonry as possible, 3) keep inviolably secret verbatim rituals entrusted to him and 4) pass the proficiency test.

He may, if he chooses, attend other Entered Apprentice lodges where he is known or with another Masonic Brother who can vouch for him, read and report on a Masonic book or publication and help where needed around the Lodge.

The Numeral Three

From time immemorial the numeral three has signified completeness, or even divinity. There are three dimensions,. three Fates, three Graces, three Gorgons, thrice three Muses, three wise men, and three persons of the Christian Trinity. In Freemasonry there are three degrees, three principal officers, three assistant officers, and many more "threes". Perhaps in no degree is the number so frequent as in the First. Consider the following examples.

Before you were admitted to the lodge room you were interviewed by a committee of three, who asked you three questions, each one relating to that great landmark, your belief in God. When you were led to the door of the lodge room three raps were given, which were answered by three from the inside. The Senior Deacon addressed the Junior Deacon three times. As you were admitted the Junior Deacon spoke three times. While you were in a kneeling posture the Worshipful Master spoke three times. In the perambulation the Junior Warden addressed you three times, and the Senior Warden also addressed you three times. The Worshipful Master then asked you three questions in the West. You were conducted to the altar by three steps; although your attention was drawn only to the last when you were asked to step off with your left foot to indicate which part of Masonry you were entering upon.

In the Obligation there are three epithets of the Lodge, Worshipful, erected to God, and dedicated to the Holy Saints John. In assuring you of the regularity of the meeting, three references are made as to how you came, and in whose presence you are. In the oath of secrecy there are three parts, "always ‑‑‑‑, ever ‑‑‑‑, never ‑‑‑‑‑." The secrecy relates to three periods of communication, past, present, and future. Only under one of three conditions may those secrets be communicated outside a lodge, and in the body of a lodge only after you have used one of three means (Strict Trial, Due Examination or Legal Information) to ascertain that the Brother was entitled to the same. All the points you promise to observe without three elements, hesitation, mental reservation, or secret evasion of mind. The penalty is of a threefold character.

After the Obligation and before being brought to light the Worshipful Master spoke three times. Your attention was directed to the three great lights, also to the three lesser lights.  Three true and proper signs were explained to you by which you were to know a Mason. After taking a Solemn Promise, etc., you were told that there were two signs and a token of this Degree. There were three reasons given for the request by the Secretary for you to make a deposit.  You were taught that one of the Working Tools was divided into three equal parts emblematic with how we were to divide our time.

In the Entered Apprentice lecture your attention was directed to the three dimensions of a Lodge. The fact that our Lodges stand on holy ground brings to our mind three grand offerings. Our Lodges are situated due East and West for three reasons. They are supported by three pillars. These are emblems of three divine attributes and further represent three ancient Grand Masters, and are referred to the three noble orders of architecture. There are three principal rounds in the ladder. The interior of a lodge is composed of three sets of articles. There are three ornaments, three items of furniture, three movable jewels, and three immovable jewels. There are three distinguishing characteristics of every Free and Accepted Mason, and three tenets or fundamental principles.

We thus see that at every turn in our ceremony we are confronted by the number three; just as, in the Lodge, no matter where we sit, we are confronted by the letter G. The frequent recurrence of this, the number of divinity, serves to remind us that, wherever we are and whatever we do, His all-seeing eye beholds us, and that we should always discharge our duty towards Him with fervency and zeal.


The candidate's admission among Masons in a state of helpless indigence is an emblematic representation of the entrance of all men upon this their mortal existence. It inculcates a useful lesson of natural equality and mutual dependence. It instructs him in the proper exercise of universal beneficence, to seek the solace of his own distress by extending relief and consolation to his fellow-creatures in the hour of their affliction. It enables him to free the soul from the dominion of pride and prejudice, to look beyond the narrow limits of particular institutions, whether civil or religious, and to view in every son of Adam a brother of the dust. But above all it teaches him to bend with humility and resignation to the will of the Grand Architect of the Universe, and to dedicate his heart, thus purified from every baneful and malignant passion, and fitted only for the reception of truth and wisdom, as well to His glory as to the welfare of his fellow-creatures.

Test Questions  Entered Apprentice Degree

 (Some Possible Answers can be found in Appendix B)

 1.    What stage of life does the Entered Apprentice represent?

2.     What stages of human life are symbolically represented by the degrees of Masonry?

3.     Of what is the Entered Apprentice degree symbolic?

4.     What are symbols and why are they important in Masonry?

5.     Who are the Patron Saints of Masonry?

6.     Where is a man first made a Mason? Why is this important?

7.     When you knocked at the door, what spiritual promise became a reality?

8.     What do we mean when we say a man is “Duly and truly prepared”?

9.     What does the Hoodwink symbolize?

10.   What does the Cable-Tow represent and what is its length?

11.   What is the Rite of Discalceation?

12.   What does your entrance into the Lodge represent?

13.   How were you received upon your entrance into the Lodge?

14.   What does the Masonic Lodge room represent?

15.   What is the form of a Lodge?

16.   Why is the presence of the Masonic Charter or Warrant significant?

17.   Define the Rite of Salutation and state its significance.

18.   Define the Rite of Circumambulation and state its significance.

19.   What is the one essential piece of furniture in the Lodge?

20.   What is the symbolism of its location?

21.   Name the Three Great Lights in Masonry.

22.   What do they represent?

23.   What evidence of a candidate’s sincerity is the most visible and heard by all the Brethren?

24.   What parts of the Obligation are literal and what parts are symbolic?

25.   For how long is your obligation to Freemasonry binding upon you?

26.   If you violate your obligation, what are the actual penalties?

27.   Define the Rite of Investiture and its significance?

28.   Name the Working Tools of the Entered Apprentice degree.

29.   What do they represent?

30.   Define the Rite of Destitution and its significance.

31.   What does it symbolize?

32.   How is the North-east corner significant in Masonry?

33.   In King Solomon’s Temple, where was the Ark of the Covenant kept?

34.   Name the immovable jewels of the Lodge and what they represent.

35.   Name the movable jewels of a Lodge and what they represent.

36.   Name the Ornaments of a Lodge and what they represent.

 37.   What does Jacob’s ladder represent?

38.   List the three principal tenets of Masonry.

39.   Name the four points of entrance.

40.   List the four cardinal virtues and what they represent.

41.   What is the point within a circle and why is it important in Masonry?

42.   What do Chalk, Charcoal and Clay represent?

43.   What are cowans and eavesdroppers?

44.   Summarize at least three important messages in the charge.

45.   How is the gavel used to signal members in the Lodge room?

46.   When the Master calls upon you in Lodge, what should you do?

47.   When prayer is given in Lodge, how do we act?

48.   What words are spoken by the Brethren after prayer, and what do they mean?

49.   What are the rights of an Entered Apprentice?

50.   Name some responsibilities of an Entered Apprentice Mason.

51.   List the secrets of the Entered Apprentice degree.

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