by Bro. Byron E. Hams
Several times I have been asked why I use “A life time Apprentice” as my signature tag line.
Here I will try to explain my travels from an “Entered Apprentice Mason”, to a “Thirty-Third Degree Mason”, and back to “A life time Apprentice”.
When I was entered as an Entered Apprentice Mason, I was told to learn the following lessons:
Let us start with the Holy Bible which is given us as the rule and guide for our faith and practice.
In the Holy Bible are found those simple teachings of the universality of brotherhood, the love of God for his children, and the hope of immortality of the soul. These are the teachings of masonry in every tongue, in every land, for those of every faith.
The Square to square our actions, and the Compasses to circumscribe our desires and to keep our passions in due bounds with all mankind, especially the brethren.
The Working Tools of Entered Apprentice are the Twenty-four-inch Gauge and the Common Gavel, and are thus explained:
The Twenty-four-inch Gauge is an instrument used by operative masons to measure and lay out their work; but we, as 1st degree masons, are taught to use it for the more noble and glorious purpose of dividing our time. It being divided into twenty-four equal parts, is emblematical of the twenty-four hours of the day, which we are taught to divide into three equal parts, whereby are found eight hours for the service of God and a distressed worthy brother (and I stress the importance of the word worthy), eight for our usual vocations, and eight for refreshment and sleep.
The Common Gavel is an instrument used by operative masons to break off the corners of rough stones, the better to fit them for the builder's use; but we, as 1st degree masons, are taught to use it for the more noble and glorious purpose of divesting our hearts and consciences of all the vices and superfluities of life, thereby fitting our minds, as living stones, for that spiritual building-that house not made with hands-eternal in the heavens.
You were given a new name, Caution, which is to teach you to be cautious over all your words and actions, especially on the subject of Freemasonry when in the presence of its enemies.
The Supports of a Lodge, Wisdom, Strength and Beauty.
Wisdom, because there should be wisdom to contrive, Strength to support, and Beauty to adorn all great and important undertakings.
The Covering of a Lodge is no less than the clouded canopy, or starry-decked heaven, where all good Masons hope at last to arrive by aid of that ladder which Jacob in his vision saw extended from earth to heaven, the principal rounds of which are denominated Faith, Hope and Charity, which admonish us to have Faith in God, Hope in immortality, and Charity to all Mankind.
The greatest of these is Charity; for our Faith may be lost in sight, Hope ends in fruit ion, but Charity extends beyond the grave, through the boundless realms of eternity.
Faith chief support of society. We live by Faith; we walk by Faith; by Faith we have a continual hope in the acknowledgment of a Supreme Being; by Faith we are justified, accepted and finally saved.
Hope is the anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and enters into that within the veil: let a firm reliance on the Almighty's faithfulness animate our endeavors, and teach us to fix our Hopes within the limits of his promises.
Charity is the brightest gem that can adorn our Masonic profession. Happy is the man who has sowed in his breast the seeds of benevolence; the produce thereof is love and peace. The objects of true charity among Masons are merit and virtue in distress; persons who are incapable of extricating themselves from misfortunes in their journey through life; industrious men who, from unavoidable accidents, have fallen into ruin; Widows left destitute by lack of husbands' support; orphans in tender years, needing a father's care; and the aged, whose strength is exhausted, and who are thereby rendered unable to procure for themselves that substance necessary to nourish their declining years. This is Charity the keystone of our mystic institution.
The Furniture of a Lodge, the Holy Bible, the Square, and the Compasses. As a more definite guide for a Freemason, the Lodge furnishes him with unerring rules whereby he should form his conduct.
The Holy Bible is laid before him, that he may not say through ignorance he erred. Whatever the Great Architect of the world hath dictated to mankind, as to the path in which to tread, and as to the mode in which He would be served, is upright and just, and will obtain His approbation; whatever precepts He hath administered, and with whatever laws He hath inspired the sages of old, the same are faithfully comprised in the Book of the Law of Freemasonry.
The Rule, the Square, and the Compasses are emblematical of the conduct we should pursue in society; to observe punctuality in all our engagements; faithfully and religiously to discharge those important obligations which we owe to God and to our neighbor; to be upright in all our dealings; to keep within bounds those unruly passions which often oftentimes interfere with the enjoyment of society and degrade both the man and the Freemason.
The Movable Jewels are the Rough Ashlar, the Perfect Ashlar and the Trestle board. By the Rough Ashlar we are reminded of our rude and imperfect state by nature; by the Perfect Ashier, of that state of perfection at which we hope to arrive by a virtuous education, our own endeavors and the blessing of Deity; and as the operative workman erects his temporal building in accordance with the designs laid down upon the Trestle-board by the master workman, so should we, both operative and speculative, endeavor to erect our spiritual building in accordance with the designs laid down by the Supreme Architect of the Universe in the Great Book of Nature and Revelation, which is our spiritual, moral and Masonic Trestle board.
The principal tenets of our profession are threefold, including the inculcation and practice of those truly commendable virtues, Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth.
By the exercise of Brotherly Love we are taught to regard the whole human race as one family--the high, the low, the rich, the poor--who, being created by one Almighty Parent, and inhabitants of the same planet, ought to aid, support and protect each other. On this principle Masonry unites men of every country, sect and opinion, and conciliates true friendship among those who might otherwise have remained at a perpetual distance.
To Relieve the Distressed is a duty incumbent on all men, but particularly on Masons, who are linked together by an indissoluble chain of sincere affection. To soothe the unhappy, to sympathize with them in their misfortunes, to compassionate their miseries, and to restore peace to their troubled minds is the great aim we have in view. On this basis we form our friendships and establish our connections.
Truth is a divine attribute and the foundation of every virtue. To be good men and true is the first lesson we are taught in Freemasonry. On this theme we contemplate, and by its dictates endeavor to regulate our conduct. Hence, while influenced by this principle, hypocrisy and deceit are unknown among us, sincerity and plain-dealing distinguish us, and the heart and the tongue join in promoting each other's welfare and rejoicing in each other's prosperity.
The four cardinal virtues- Fortitude, Prudence, Temperance, and Justice.
Fortitude is that noble and steady purpose of the mind whereby we are enabled to undergo any pain, peril or danger, when prudently deemed expedient. This virtue is equally distant from rashness and cowardice, and should be deeply impressed upon your mind as a safeguard or security against any attempt that may be made, by force or otherwise, to extort from you any of those valuable secrets with which you have been so solemnly entrusted, and which was emblematically represented upon your first admission into the Lodge.
Prudence teaches us to regulate our lives and actions agreeably to the dictates of Reason, and is that habit by which we wisely judge and prudently determine on all things relative to our present as well as to our future happiness. This virtue should be your peculiar characteristic, not only for the government of your conduct while in the Lodge, but also when abroad in the world. You should be particularly cautious in all strange or mixed companies never to let the least sign, token or word whereby the secrets of Freemasonry might be obtained.
Temperance is that due restraint upon our affections and passions which renders the body tame and governable, and frees the mind from the allurements of vice. This virtue should be your constant practice, as you are thereby taught to avoid excess or contracting any licentious or vicious habits, the indulgence of which might lead you to disclose some of those valuable secrets which you have promised to conceal and never reveal, and Which would consequently subject you to the contempt and detestation of all good Masons.
Justice is that standard or boundary of right which enables us to render to every man his just due without distinction. This virtue is not only consistent With divine and human laws, but it is the very cement and support of civil society; and as justice in a great measure constitutes the really good man, so should it he Your Invariable practice never to deviate from the minutest principles thereof.
The Three Precious Jewels of an Entered Apprentice, a listening ear, a silent tongue, and a faithful heart.
A listening ear teaches us to listen to the instructions of the Worshipful Master, but more especially to the cries of a worthy distressed brother.
A silent tongue teaches us to be silent in the Lodge, that the peace and harmony thereof may not be disturbed, but more especially before the enemies of Masonry.
A faithful heart, that I should be faithful and keep and conceal the secrets of Masonry and those of a brother when delivered to me in charge as such, that they may remain as secure and inviolable In my breast as in his own, before being communicated to me.
Entered Apprentices should serve their masters with freedom, fervency and zeal, which are resented by Chalk, Charcoal and Clay.
There is nothing freer than Chalk, the slightest touch of which leaves a trace; there is nothing more fervent than Charcoal, for to it, when properly ignited, the most obdurate metals will yield; there is nothing more zealous than Clay, our Mother- Earth, for it alone of all the elements has never proved unfriendly to man. Bodies of Water deluge him with rain, oppress him with hail and drown him with inundation; the Air rushes in storms and prepares the tempest; and Fire lights up the volcano; but the Earth, ever kind and indulgent, is found subservient to his wishes. Though constantly harassed, more to furnish the luxuries than the necessaries of life, she never refuses her accustomed yield, spreading his pathway with flowers and his table with plenty. Though she produces poison, still she supplies the antidote, and returns with interest every good committed to her care; and when at last we are called upon to pass through the "dark Valley of the shadow of death" she once more receives us, and piously covers our remains within her bosom, thus admonishing us that as from it we came, so to it we must shortly return.
When I was passed to a Fellow Craft Mason, I was told to learn the following lessons:
To the Fellow craft, it is just a rope about his right arm, which he imagines can be used for a number of bad things. In most lodges he is told that if any Brother knows anything bad about him and sees him during initiation, he will he dragged out by it.
Very few Lodges if any tell the Fellow craft that the cable tow may be used to assist him on his way.
We as a people seem to always stress the negative points in Masonry and forget about the positive points.
In old days it was generally considered to be three miles; that a Brother was expected to travel to attend lodge meeting whether he wanted to or not.
Traveling the length of ones cable tow is the only real secret in Masonry. Far no one can see into the heart of another Brother and tell how far he will go to the aid of the Order or another Brother.
The working tools of a Fellow craft are the Plumb, the Square, and the LEVEL.
As we all know the Plumb is an instrument made use by Operative Masons to raise Perpendiculars; the sure to, square their work; and the level to lay horizontals; but we, as Prince Hall Masons, are taught to make use of them for more noble and glorious purposes.
The Plumb admonishes us to walk uprightly in our several stations before God and man, squaring our actions by the square of virtue, and remembering that we are traveling upon the Level of Time to that undiscovered country from whose borne no traveler returns.
Knowing what the books say doesn't always tell us what they mean or should mean to us.
The Plumb means that we should live By the rules the God we profess to believe in. We should obey the laws of the Country in which we live. And lastly walk upright and proud, because we should be living the best life we can, no mater what our position in society is.
The square means that we should treat our fellow man as we want our fellow man to treat us. This claim extends even further to our fellow Brothers.
The level means that no mater what level our walk in life is, all men are bought to the same level in death. All men have three things in common:
1. All men are born of a woman
2. All men live for awhile
3. All men will die
Death does away with all big I's and all little you's, all ranks and titles. No mater what race, creed, or color, death is dead for everybody.
The wages of a fellow craft which are, the corn of nourishment, the wine of refreshment, and the oil of joy, which denote, peace, harmony, and strength.
These are the promised rewards of a faithful and diligent performance of duty.
As most fellow crafts already know what their wages are, let us now, go into uncharted waters and see what we as Masons are supposed to do with them.
And wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengthens man's heart. (Psalm 104:15)
You should share your corn to feed the hungry, share your wine to cheer the sorrowful and share your oil of consolation with your fellow man.
In the world today a man gets paid for a job well done. A man's standing in life usually depends on how well a man spends his wages. In the language of scripture we will go into wages well spent.
Corn is an emblem of the resurrection.
1 Corinthians Chapter 15, verses 35 to 38.
But some men will say, How are the dead raised up?
And with what body do they come?
Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die:
And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain:
But God givest it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body.
To me that every seed I sow to help somebody will grow into something good. I must point out here that the good does not always come back to the person who sow it, but it is good anyway.
If when this body is planted, if it is planted in goodness, I believe God will raise it up in goodness.
And he set up the pillars in the porch of the temple; and he set up the right pillar; and called the name thereof Jachin; and he set up the left pillar, and called the name thereof Boaz. 1 Kings 7:21
In the Fellow craft degree it is told that the one on the right is called Jachin, and denotes establishment; and the one on the left hand is called Boaz, denotes strength. Wisdom and power is another translation.
The translation of the meaning of the names of pillars is not of importance at this time. The important factor at this time is not even mentioned.
The important factor and only secret is in the heart of each candidate. He has to decide for himself if he wants to go to the right and gain nothing but wisdom, or if he wants to go to the left and gain nothing but power, or if he wants to go through the middle and gain an equal amount of both.
Everything God has given to man is natural. It is left up to man, if he wants to use it for good or evil. All the wisdom in the world is useless without the power to use it. Like a book full of wisdom does not have the power to open itself, so it is useless by itself.
Power is like a loaded gun is neutral until it is used. Used wisely it can be used for good; to get food to eat, to keep peace, to protect what is yours.
The Fellow craft that walks through the center not only gets power but he also gets the wisdom to use that power for the good of the order and himself.
Even through the scriptural account of the Temple states that there were actually winding stairs, it does not state how many.
Only in this country have the stairs 15 steps. In older days the stairs had but 5, and sometimes 7 steps. Preston had 36 steps in his stairs, in a series of 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, and 11. But this violated a Pythagorean principle and Freemasonry has adopted much in its system from the science of numbers as exemplified by Pythagoras.
The English system later eliminated the number 11 from Preston's 36 making 25 steps in all. In this country the first step and the 9 steps were eliminated from the English system making 15 steps in all.
As you can see 21 points of knowledge have been dropped from the winding stairs.
You will notice that I said dropped and not lost.
The main point here is that the stairs as a whole are a representation of life; not the physical life of eating, drinking, sleeping and working, but the mental and spiritual life, of both the lodge and the world without.
What the Fellow craft does with his life depends on what path he took through the two pillars on the porch of King Solomon's Temple.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. St. John 1:1
All in all that is all there is to the letter G. But I have found that if you make things to simple people tend to take them as unimportant.
I have not been able to determine when the letter G was introduced into Speculative Masonry as a symbol.
The letter G is not derived from the Operative Masons of the Middle Ages, and formed no part of the architectural decoration of old cathedrals.
Whether it entered the symbolism under the influence of those Rosicrucian’s and Qabalists who joined the Order during the last half of the 17th century, or whether it was introduced at some time subsequent to 1717, when the first Grand Lodge was established at the Apple-tree Tavern in London, is impossible to tell.
The letter G is the initial of Geometry. This makes it a symbolic summary of the entire Masonic system. The heart of Freemasonry is a doctrine founded on the science of geometry. In the old Masonic Constitutions it is specifically stated that Masonry and Geometry are one and the same.
It is no secret that the letter G is a symbol for the Deity. It so happens that God is the English name of the Grand Architect of the Universe. The fact that G is the first letter of God is not the only connection between the symbol and the Deity.
Its Greek equivalent is the initial of Gaia, the earth Mother, eldest born of Chases, whose name is the root of the noun geometria, geometry.
Gimel, the Hebrew correspondence to G, is the initial of gadol, majesty, and of gebur, strong, words used to designate the Deity throughout the Hebrew sacred writings. Gimel itself is regarded by the wise men of Israel as being the alphabetical sign of the sacred wisdom which is founded on the science of geometry.
So basically we are back to St. John 1:1. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
When I was raised to a Master Mason, I was told to learn the following lesions:
The Pot Of Incense Symbolizes man, the pot being the physical body, the Incense being the mind of man, and when they are lit, the heat given off being the spirit of man as given to him by God.
The Beehive Symbolizes unity of purpose, with just one leader, for life and just one goal, the betterment of the hive.
The Anchor And Ark The Anchor is an emblem of Jesus Christ who gave his life to ensure us a safe harbor to find rest in. The Ark is an emblem of God, that divine ark that carries us through a lifetime of trials and tribulations, and finally to our Heavenly home.
The 47th Problem of Euclid Is commonly excepted to represent the physical body, the psyche, and the spiritual, and this figure being the complete man. Let us just suppose the 47th problem of Euclid represented the life spirit, the human spirit, and the divine spirit. The life spirit being Friendship, the human spirit being Morality, and the divine spirit being Brotherly Love. This figure could represent the perfect man.
The Hour Glass Is an emblem of human life. Like the hour glass, when the first grain of sand falls it is a fact that the last grain of sand will fall too. When man is born it is a fact that he will also die. The difference being that man has control over how he lives his life and the sand only falls down.
The Sword Reminds us that we should be ever watchful and guarded in our thoughts, words, and actions, because all of these will be recorded in the Great Book of Life, that all men are judged by when" they die.
The Scythe Is used as an emblem of Death but it is in reality an emblem of transition from one life to another. Because as this mortal life comes to an end it brings with it the beginning of a spiritual life.
When I went through York Rite Masonry, it was explained to me the meaning of all these lesions.
When I went through my reception into Scottish Rite Masonry, even more lesions were taught and explained to me.
When I was admitted to the Thirty-Third Degree, came the Surprise of my life. No more lesions, no more explanations, I was only told to remember a few simple facts and to do one thing, which changed my whole outlook on life.
1. Any man who fails, in his duties to God, fails mankind and himself.
2. While you live, you should work to secure for all people their rights and voice in its government.
3. You must labor to enlighten and teach mankind.
4. To teach the people their power and their rights.
5. To let the enemies of mankind be your enemies.
6. Come to no terms with them, but complete surrender of their ways.
7. That even though I been exalted to the Thirty-Third Degree, I would still be among my equals in every Blue Lodge and that all “worthy” Master Masons are my Brothers.
Now the one thing that changed my life was, I was informed that it was not enough to just know or just understand the lessons of Masonry, I had to live the lessons of Masonry.
Believing this I feel that I will be “A life time Apprentice” my whole life. When the time comes to return this physical body back to the ground from wince it came.
The sprit that lived in this body will be returned to God as a “Fellow Craft” and then at the feet of God the labors of my sprit will be judged by God.
Then and only then, if God finds the work of my sprit as “true work, good work”, will my sprit be raised from a dead level to a living perpendicular on the angle of a square by God.
In this belief, I will live my life as “A life time Apprentice”, always trying to subdue my passions and learning to improve myself.
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