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Faith, Hope and

The greatest of these is charity

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“Tier One”

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This manual does not disclose any of the esoteric portions of the ritual. The contents of this manual therefore may be discussed with, and read by, any person interested in acquiring knowledge about Freemasonry. This manual has been produced for the use in this

“Online Masonic Education Course”

Table of Contents


Purpose of this Course
Freemasonry Defined
The Purpose of Freemasonry
Origin of Freemasonry
Short History of Freemasonry
Short History of Masonry in California
Transition from Operative to Speculative
Transition from Speculative to Applied
King Solomon’s Temple
Is Freemasonry a Secret Society?
Is Freemasonry a Religion?
Freemasonry Attitude to Politics and Religion
The “Tenets”
Symbols of the First Degree
Working Tools of an Entered Apprentice
Interpretation of the Ritual of the First Degree

  • Qualifications of a Petitioner
  • The Secret Ballot
  • Preparation for Initiation
  • Duly and Truly Prepared
  • Entering the Lodge
  • The Method of Reception
  • The Holy Saints John
  • Prayer in Lodge
  • The Practice of Circumambulation
  • Kneeling at the Altar
  • The Obligation
  • The Rite of Destitution
  • The Northeast Corner
  • The Lecture of this Degree
  • The Charge

  • The Proficiency
  • The Language of Freemasonry
  • When to Rise and When to be Seated
  • Subjects Not Proper for Discussion in Lodge
  • The Worshipful Master
  • The Tiler
  • No Horseplay or Hazing
  • The Heart of the Masonic Family
  • The Rights of an Entered Apprentice Mason
  • The Responsibilities of an Entered Apprentice Mason

Famous Freemasons

Masonic Glossary: Entered Apprentice



The intent of this course is basically twofold: first, to provide the new and old members 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. For some this is enough, but for others it is not. This course provides the next logical step for the student of the mysteries of Masonry.


Freemasonry cannot be defined in a few sentences or pat answers. One of the most common definitions is that it is a system of morality, veiled in allegory (or a story) and illustrated by symbols. This is true, but Freemasonry is more than that. While it is certainly a course of moral instruction that uses both allegories and symbols to teach its lessons, Freemasonry is also an organized society of men, a fraternity. It uses symbols derived from operative stonemasonry and architecture but not exclusively. Much of its symbolism is also taken from Biblical sources, especially the stories surrounding the building of King Solomon’s Temple. Great stress is placed upon the development of moral and ethical virtues and the building of character, with Truth being the guiding principle of our lives. Thus, brotherhood and charity are natural outcomes which further defines what we are. In other words, we are using proven methods to enhance the lives and spirits of our members in a tangible way.

There are also aspects of Freemasonry that enrich our lives and spirits in an intangible way. This part of Masonry is harder to define but is just as real. There is something very profound about Freemasonry. It seems to speak to a hidden part of oneself that responds with a deep reverence and respect. The deeper one takes his studies of the rites and symbols of Freemasonry, the richer his Masonic life becomes.

In his poem, "When is a Man a Mason?" the Rev. Joseph Fort Newton captured the essence of what it means to be a Freemason:

"When he can look out over the rivers, the hills, and the far horizon with a profound sense of his own littleness in the vast scheme of things, and yet have faith, hope, and courage-which is the root of every virtue. When he knows that down in his heart every man is as noble, as vile, as divine, as diabolic, and as lonely as himself, and seeks to know, to forgive, and to love his fellowman. When he knows how to sympathize with men in their sorrows, yea, even in their sins-knowing that each man fights a hard fight against many odds. When he has learned how to make friends and to keep them, and above all how to keep friends with himself. When he loves flowers, can hunt birds without a gun, and feels the thrill of an old forgotten joy when he hears the laugh of a little child. When he can be happy and high-minded amid the meaner drudgeries of life. When star-crowned trees and the glint of sunlight on flowing waters subdue him like the thought of one much loved and long dead. When no voice of distress reaches his ears in vain, and no hand seeks his aid without response. When he finds good in every faith that helps any man to lay hold of divine things and sees majestic meanings in life, whatever the name of that faith may be. When he can look into a wayside puddle and see something beyond mud, and into the face of the most forlorn fellow mortal and see something beyond sin. When he knows how to pray, how to love, how to hope. When he has kept faith with himself, with his fellowman, and with his God; in his hands a sword for evil, in his heart a bit of a song-glad to live, but not afraid to die! Such a man has found the only real secret of Masonry, and the one which it is trying to give to all the world."


What is the purpose of Masonry? One of its most basic purposes is to make good men even better. We try to place emphasis on the individual man by strengthening his character, improving his moral and spiritual outlook, and broadening his mental horizons. We try to impress upon the minds of our members the principles of personal responsibility and morality, encouraging each member to practice in his daily life the lessons taught through symbolic ceremonies in the lodge. One of the universal doctrines of Freemasonry is the belief in the “Brotherhood of Man and the Fatherhood of God”. The importance of this belief is established by each Mason as he practices the three principle tenets of Masonry: Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth.

Masonry is also the custodian of a tradition of initiation. It is the duty of every Freemason to preserve and perpetuate this tradition for future ages. This is a heavy responsibility and should give pause to any who would seek to make changes in the body of the Craft, except those with the highest motives and deepest understanding of the principles involved.


How did Freemasonry originate? We are not sure when our craft was born. We do know it goes far beyond written record and we believe it was not always called Freemasonry. It is obvious that some of the ancient Mystery Schools of Egypt, Greece and the Near East influenced the ceremonies that are used today. These ceremonies were designed as tests, and admission was granted only to those who passed and were worthy of further instruction. Our ceremonies have some of the same elements, though probably of a less physical nature, while still maintaining its spiritual form. Specifically, there are points of similarity between our Fraternity and the society founded by Pythagoras and the Fraternity of Hermes at Hermopolis in Egypt. We can also find affinities in the great Mystery Schools of Isis and Osiris of Egypt, the Dionysiac/Orphic and Eleusinian Mysteries of Greece, and the Mithraic Mysteries of ancient Rome.

Other groups that carried on like traditions include: the Jewish eschatological sect of the Essenes - from whom some believe John the Baptist came; the Roman Collegia of Artificers – an organization of builders - that Marcus Vitruvius Pollio (under the Emperor Augustus) led in the first century; and, the Comacine masters who flourished at the fall of the Roman Empire. The last group provides some link with the cathedral building projects of the medieval ages that were virtual bibles in stone. Our connection with these great schools of the past and other organizations is tenuous at best, but nevertheless, a study of them yields deep insight into our own Fraternity. We will refer again to these august institutions within these booklets at appropriate places. It is generally thought that the medieval craft guilds gave rise to the operative lodges, that in turn became the birthplace of Freemasonry as we know it today.


In the book of human history Freemasonry has a chapter of its own. When you have become the member of a Lodge it is a chapter you will wish to read, as much for its own fascination as for the light it will throw upon your path as a Mason. Here I shall tell you a very little bit about that story; not for the sake of history as such, but to enable you to understand better the three steps of initiation which lie before you.

Men in all ages and in all lands have had secret societies; have made use of ceremonies of initiation, employed symbols, emblems and means of recognition. When Freemasonry came into existence—nobody knows how many centuries ago—it inherited much from such societies, certain of its rites and a number of its symbols. Along your path of initiation you will encounter them; their unspeakable antiquity makes them more holy in our eyes.

The oldest of all existing written records of our Craft is a manuscript written by some unknown Brother in England, about 1390. That was nearly six centuries ago! But the document itself shows that even then Freemasonry was already very old.

At the time this document was written all Freemasons were Operatives; that is, they were workers engaged on buildings. Such a builder was then called a "Mason." There were many kinds of Masons, but the evidence indicates that those who were called ''Freemasons'' were those builders of a superior type who designed, supervised and erected the great cathedrals and other marvelous structures in the Gothic style of architecture.

Those Operative Freemasons, as I have just said, designed such buildings as a whole and in each detail; dressed the stone from the quarries; laid it in the walls; set up arches, pillars, columns and buttresses; laid the floor and built the roof; carved out the decorations, made and fitted the stained-glass windows into place and produced the sculptures. Their work was difficult to execute; called for a high degree of skill and genius; and required of them a great deal of knowledge of mechanics and geometry as well as of Stone-Masonry. They were the great artists of the Middle Ages.

Training men for such work called for a long period of severe discipline. Boys sound in body, keen in mind, and of good reputation were taken at the age of ten or twelve and apprenticed to some Master Mason for a number of years, usually seven; this Master Mason was such a boy's father in Freemasonry, his tutor, his mentor, his guide, who taught him both the theories and the practices of the Craft. At the end of his apprentice-ship the youth was required to submit to exacting tests of his proficiency before being accepted into full membership in the Craft.

Where a number of Freemasons worked together on a building over a period of years they organized a Lodge, which might meet in a temporary building or in one of the rooms of the uncompleted structure. Such a Lodge was governed by a Worshipful Master assisted by Wardens; it had a Secretary to keep its books, a Treasurer to keep and to disburse its funds, a charity chest from which to dispense relief to the members in accident, sickness or distress and to widows and orphans of Master Masons; it met in regular communication, divided its membership into grades, admitted members by initiation—in short, it was in all essentials what a Masonic Lodge is today.

The young beginner in learning the builders' art was called an Apprentice; after he had served as such a sufficient time to give evidence of his fitness his name was entered in the Lodge's books, after which he was called an Entered Apprentice. At the end of his seven or so years of apprenticeship he was called into open Lodge, his conduct was reported, and he was then set to prove his skill by producing what was called a "Master's piece." Hitherto he had been on probation; if now he passed his test satisfactorily he was made a full member of the Craft. In the sense that he now stood on an equality of duty, rights, and privileges with all others he was called Fellow of the Craft —the word "Fellow" meaning full membership; in the sense that he had now mastered the theories, practices, rules, secrets, and tools of his trade he was called a Master Mason.

Completing their work in one community these Freemasons would move to another, setting up their Lodges wherever they met. Other types of Masons were compelled by law to live and work in the same community year in and year out, and under local restrictions. A number of our historians believe it may have been because they were free of such restrictions that the Gothic builders were called "Freemasons."

Such was the Fraternity in its Operative period; and as such it flourished for generations. Then came a great change in its fortunes. Euclid's geometry was rediscovered and published, thereby giving to the public many of the Masons' old trade secrets. The Reformation came and with it the Gothic style of architecture began to die out. Social conditions underwent a revolution, laws were changed; all these, and other factors, brought about a decline in the Craft. During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries Freemasons became so few in number that only a small Lodge here and there clung to a precarious existence.

Owing to these conditions the Freemasons, to recruit their members, adopted a new practice; they began to accept non-Operative members. In the old days only an Operative Mason in the literal sense could become a member; but during the two centuries I have just mentioned—our historians call them the ''Transition Period"—gentlemen with no intention to become builders, and out of curiosity, for social reasons, or from interest in the Craft's ancient customs, were received. And because they were thus accepted they were called "Accepted Masons." At first there were few of these, but as time passed their number increased, until by the early part of the eighteenth century they out-topped the Operatives in both number and influence.

As a result of this the Craft took a step that was destined to revolutionize it and to set it on a new path of power and magnitude. On St. John the Baptist's Day, June 24, 1717, four or more old Lodges of London and Westminster met in London and organized a Grand Lodge, and on the same day selected their first Grand Master, M. -.W. -.Anthony Sayer.

Within a few years of that date the Craft had transformed itself from an Operative Body into a Speculative Fraternity (by "Speculative" is meant Masonry in a moral, or symbolical, sense), reorganized the old two Degrees into the three Degrees of Entered Apprentice, Fellowcraft and Master Mason; collected and collated the old Masonic manuscripts, produced the first Book of Constitutions, and was chartering Lodges in many countries, including our own, to take care of the Fraternity's membership, which began rapidly to increase shortly after the organization of the Grand Lodge. All this was the beginning of organized Speculative Freemasonry as we now know it.

In 1751 a second Grand Lodge was organized in England; prior to that Grand Lodges had been set up in Scotland, Ireland, and on the Continent. Early American Lodges, of which the earliest known was organized at Philadelphia in 1730, were placed under the charge of Provincial Grand Lodges, which were ruled by Provincial Grand Masters appointed by Grand Lodges in England or in Scotland and Ireland.

As one of the results of the successful termination of the War of the Revolution, American Grand Lodges became sovereign and independent. It was a question at the time of that happening whether there should not be one Grand Lodge for the whole of the United States, but the wisdom of the Craft prevailed and any such scheme was abandoned.

As the years passed one Grand Lodge was organized in each State, being sovereign within its own limits, no other Grand Lodge having any right whatever to control Masonic affairs under its Jurisdiction. Today we have in the United States fifty-one Grand Lodges, one for each State and one for the District of Columbia; on their rolls are more than 16,500 Lodges with almost three and one-half million members.

Speculative Freemasonry did not spring full-formed out of nothing in 1717, but came as a gradual development out of Operative Masonry. Through an unbroken line we can trace our lineage back to those builders of the early Middle Ages; we are Masons too, except that where they erected buildings we try to build manhood; their tools we have transformed into emblems of moral and spiritual laws and forces; their practices and secrets we have embodied in the Royal Art of Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth; their rituals, mellowed, enriched, and made more beautiful with the passing of time, we employ in the entering, passing and raising of our candidates; all that was living and permanent in their Craft we have preserved and we use it in behalf of goodwill, kindliness, charity and brotherhood among men. Such is our heritage, my friend, and as you enter into it you will discover it inexhaustible in interest, life-long in its appeal, a power in your life to enrich, to ennoble and to inspire.


You have received already a brief story of Freemasonry in the world and from it learned that the beginnings of our Craft go back to a very early period. Also you learned that Masonry in its modern Speculative form began with the organization of the first Grand Lodge and of the Grand Lodge system in London, England, in 1717, and that the earliest known record of an American Lodge is dated at 1730, only thirteen years after the constituting of the Mother Grand Lodge.

The early history of Masonry in California is interlaced with the whole dynamic story of our early pioneers. It could not have been otherwise for in so many instances the men who were building a new empire beyond the ranges were Masons. They were men of sterling quality who dared to dream big dreams and who had the courage to live strenuous lives. In many cases these men had come West with Masonry definitely in mind. They came with credentials from Eastern Grand Lodges and Grand Masters authorizing them to set up Masonic Lodges in California. In four cases Eastern Grand Lodges had issued charters granting groups of Masons who were either in California or who were coming West the right to set up Masonic Lodges to operate under the jurisdictions of the Grand Lodges issuing the charters. In a dozen other instances Grand Masters issued dispensations which gave groups of Masons the right to convene as California Masonic Lodges.

The four California Lodges which were organized on the issuance of charters by Eastern Grand Lodges are still in existence. The first of these charters was issued by the Grand Lodge of Missouri on May 10th, 1848, and authorized the establishment of the Western Star Lodge No. 98. This Lodge was first located at Benton City, seventeen miles from Chico, but in 1851 was moved to Shasta City, where it still exists. It is now known, under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of California, as Western Star Lodge No. 2. Many valuable Masonic relics are in the vault of this old lodge.

The second charter, authorizing the establishment of a Lodge in the West, was issued by the Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia. This was issued to California Lodge No. 13 which took San Francisco as its home. The oldest record of any California Masonic-Lodge is the record of California Lodge No. 13. This Lodge is now known as California Lodge No. 1.

The third Western Lodge was organized under a charter issued by the Grand Lodge of Connecticut on January 31st, 1849. This Lodge was known as Connecticut Lodge No. 76 and was located at Sacramento. When the California Grand Lodge was organized in 1850 this Lodge became Tehama Lodge No. 3.

The fourth chartered lodge was Lafayette Lodge No. 29, organized under a charter issued by the Grand Lodge of Wisconsin. This charter was issued on April 20th, 1850. Interesting enough this was just one day after the Grand Lodge of California had been organized and is indicative of the slowness of transportation and communication of the time. Lafayette Lodge was located at Nevada City. In 1851 fire destroyed the Wisconsin charter of this Lodge and it was reorganized under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of California and became known as Nevada Lodge No. 13. After nearly a century this Lodge still carries this name and number.

Of the eleven dispensations granted by Eastern Grand Masters to groups of Masons some resulted in permanent Lodges, others result in short-lived organizations, and some never materialized into organization of any kind. Many of these dispensations were given to groups of Masons preparing to go West and who had little notion as to where their wanderings would lead them. Thus, often the dispensation would be issued for a traveling lodge and the groups holding these would hold meetings while en route from one place to another. Naturally such groups were unstable and many of them gradually disappeared.

Of the eleven groups holding dispensations from various Grand Masters the following eventually grew into permanent California Lodges. The Pacific Lodge at Benicia, under grant from the Grand Master of Louisiana issued in 1849, became Benicia Lodge No. 5. This Lodge erected the first Masonic hall in California. It is still standing. The first jewels of this Lodge, used in 1850, were cut from tin cans. The old Bible, also first used in 1850, is still on the altar of this old Masonic Lodge.

The Davy Crockett Lodge of San Francisco, also holding dispensation from the Grand Master of Louisiana, became Davy Crockett Lodge No. 7. In 1852 this became San Francisco Lodge No. 7 under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of California. Reuben Dark, its Master in 1851, was the architect and builder of the capitol at Sacramento.

The Sierra Nevada Lodge, located at Grass Valley, held its dispensation from the Grand Master of Indiana, issued in 1848. This Lodge gradually disappeared but its members reorganized as Madison Lodge under a California charter.

Laveley Lodge, located at Marysville was organized by authorization of the Grand Master of Illinois, in the year 1850. This Lodge later became Marysville Lodge No. 9, and still later Corinthian Lodge No. 9.

Pacific Lodge, given dispensation by the Grand Master of Illinois, held its meetings at Long's Bar, two and one half miles from Oroville. It was organized in 1850 but did not continue for long. Its members, by authority of the California Grand Lodge, were granted membership in various California Lodges.

There were six other groups of Masons given dispensations by the Grand Masters of New Jersey, Virginia, Indiana, Massachusetts, Ohio, and Florida. Some of these were grants to traveling lodges and never materialized. Others organized but lived only a short time.

Occasional reference has already been made to the California Grand Lodge of Masons. With the discovery of gold in Northern California and the consequent tremendous influx of population it was inevitable that Masons should multiply rapidly and that a completely organized Masonic unit would come to California. Very many of the men in Eastern states who contemplated moving westward felt the need for fraternalism amid the dangers of their future frontier homes. Great numbers of these men sought admission into Masonic Lodges before starting westward. Many others, of course, had long been Masons. So it was that a substantial part of early California immigrants were members of the Craft. Much of the leadership, so significantly important in a new country, can be accredited to the early members of our Order. Under these conditions, and in a rapidly growing community, it was natural that a Grand Lodge for California should be organized early.

The first attempt to form a California Grand Lodge was made in March of 1850 but because of irregularities in the proceedings this particular attempt came to naught. But one month later all the Masonic Lodges of California, and all past Grand Officers in the State were invited in regular manner to send delegates to a convention with the idea of forming a California Grand Lodge. This convention was called to meet in Sacramento on April 17th, 1850. California Lodge No. 13 of San Francisco, Connecticut Lodge No. 76, and Western Star Lodge No. 98, each holding a charter from some Eastern Grand Lodge, and so regularly constituted Lodges, presented credentials. Also, Benton City Lodge, New Jersey Lodge of Sacramento, and Benicia Lodge sent delegates. These three lodges held dispensations from Grand Masters but had never been chartered. Their delegates could not be seated as official representatives for the purpose of forming a California Grand Lodge, though they were invited to remain and to participate in the deliberations.

The convention for forming the California Grand Lodge of Masons proved successful in every particular. The Grand Lodge for Free and Accepted Masons for the State of California was duly organized five months before California actually became a state. Jonathan D. Stevenson of San Francisco became the first Grand Master. On April 19th, assisted by a full corps of officers, he opened the first session of the Grand Lodge of California in ample form.

The three Lodges involved in creating the Grand Lodge were assigned names and numbers under the California jurisdiction in accordance with the dates of the organization of these Lodges. California Lodge in San Francisco became California Lodge No. 1. Western Star Lodge at Benton City became Western Star Lodge No. 2. Tehama Lodge at Sacramento became Tehama Lodge No. 3'.

After the formation of the Grand Lodge Masonry moved forward rapidly in California. When the Grand Lodge was formed in April of 1850 there were but three chartered Lodges in the state with a total membership of 103. By November of the same year Jennings Lodge No. 4 of Sacramento; Benicia Lodge No. 5; Sutter Lodge No. 6 of Sacramento; Davy Crockett No. 7 of San Francisco; Tuolumne Lodge No. 8 of Sonora; Marysville Lodge No. 9; San Jose Lodge No. 10; and Willamette Lodge No. 11 of Portland, Oregon, had been chartered by the California Grand Lodge. The membership was then 304.

During the next ten years the Masonic Lodges in the State increased to 128 with a membership of 5055. But there was ever a shifting population—the flowing of the human tide on the frontier of a new nation. By 1860 thirteen Lodges had surrendered their charters while two others had transferred to the Oregon jurisdiction. Two Lodges had lost their charters for cause. And so the story ran on, decade after decade, with the population becoming ever more stable, communities better established, and the new empire of the West more firmly entrenched. Now there existed a Masonic Lodge in practically every village in the State and many in each of our larger cities.

The names of some of the Masonic Lodges which grew up with the mining towns are interesting: There was Rough and Ready at a camp by the same name in Nevada County; Indian Diggings Lodge in El Dorado County; Saint Mark's Lodge at Fiddletown; Oro Fino, at a town by that name in Siskiyou County; Violet Lodge at Spanish Flat; Rising Sun Lodge at Brandy City; Mount Carmel Lodge at Red Dog, Nevada County; and so on almost without end. Many of these passed into history as important mines failed. During the many years of Masonic History in California a too large number of Lodges have ceased to exist for one reason or another.

At the present time the number of Lodges in the State is three hundred and seventy with a total membership that approaches 77,000. During latter years much of this growth has been in Southern California, just as in the earlier days the growth was primarily in the North. Prior to 1860 there were but three Lodges in all Southern California. These were San Diego No. 35 organized in 1851; Los Angeles No. 42, organized in 1853; and Lexington No. 104, organized in 1855. During the last quarter of the century, however, Southern California began to move ahead by leaps and bounds. Now about forty per cent of the Lodges of the State are south of the Tehachapi.

Brother John Whieher, Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of California, tells the interesting story of a characteristic mining camp in the early days of California that you may have an idea of how Masonry fitted into the picture:

"Of the numerous mining camps of early days," says Brother Whieher, "one only need be noted. The largest mining camp in California was Columbia, in Tuolumne County, known as the 'Gem of the Southern Mines'. Gold was discovered there in the spring of 1850, and within one month the stampede from nearby camps resulted in a population of 6000 miners. Every week brought more treasure-hunters, and flush times counted 30,000 men madly digging in the hills thereabouts, 15,000 being in the city limits. By 1865 Columbia was dead. It contained forty saloons, a long street devoted to fandangoes and hurdy-gurdies, four theatres, one Chinese theatre with a stock company of forty native actors, three jewelry stores, a bull ring, 143 faro banks with a combined capital of $2,000,000, four hotels, two military companies, two hose companies, three express offices, four banks, four newspapers, two churches, a Sunday school, a division of the Sons of Temperance, and Columbia Lodge No. 28, of Masons. The principal bank was that of D. 0. Mills, the steps leading to the building being of white Columbia marble, and the counters of mahogany. It contained huge gold scales with a capacity of $40,000 in dust and nuggets. The camp produced within a radius of three miles and shipped $125,000,000 in gold. The Masonic Lodge was a power in the work of maintaining order and decent government, but after the gold-fever and the mines had subsided, the membership fell to a low ebb; and in 1891 the old Lodge, established July, 1852, consolidated with Tuolumne Lodge No. 8, at the historic town of Sonora, where it still carries on. There are innumerable ghost cities on the Mother Lode, but Columbia was the gem of them all."

The value of Freemasonry to the young and rising civilization of the West of nearly a century ago cannot be overstated. It was a tremendous influence for civic and moral righteousness. I commend this interesting history to you and trust that you will take occasion to further enlighten yourself.


What is the difference between “Operative” and “Speculative” Masonry? Operative refers to the time in our history when Masons actually performed the physical labor of building. They were the best at their craft, and they kept secret their methods of building. Speculative refers to the period of time when men were accepted into the Craft as “non-operative” members. They were not “physical builders”, but “builders of character” instead.

We are unable to accurately pinpoint the time when we transitioned from operative to speculative masonry. The change was gradual and probably, stretched over a period of more than 50 years. It began early in the 1600's and may have begun with the acceptance of patrons into the operative lodges, as was mentioned in the Entered Apprentice Degree instruction. Other members who were not interested in becoming stonemasons, followed the patrons. Those who were admitted by consent of the operative masons became "Accepted Masons". Membership was desired because of the spiritual, social and cultural advantages. During this time, our Craft grew rapidly in numbers.

The decline of Gothic architecture and the reduced demands for great building projects greatly lowered the number of skilled operative craftsmen needed to carry on construction during this period. If we had not become Speculative Masons, our Craft would have been faced with extinction. Many of the institutions of that day did pass into oblivion; but by becoming Speculative, the Craft has grown to a point never envisioned by its founders. Much of this growth can be attributed to the formation of the premier Grand Lodge of England, when four old Lodges in London held a meeting at the Goose and Gridiron Tavern in June of 1717. At this meeting, a brother by the name of Anthony Sayer was elected Grand Master. From there, Masonry quickly spread over much of the world, and other grand lodges were established.


As we go into the 21st Century, Freemasonry may enter a third stage called "Applied Freemasonry" as it begins to serve the human race, its true destiny.

Masonry has not yet achieved this goal partly because of compla­cent satisfaction in its superiorities and the atmosphere created by rituals and fraternal friendships. These are beneficial, but Masonry is not a secret society or a social club. The changes which will accom­pany Masonry's transition to the third stage when Masonic princi­ples are put into practical and helpful use will not hurt the values which Masons hold so important and immutable.

Much of our Masonic secrecy is no longer needed. People today are not enchanted with secret societies. And there is nothing secret in what Masons do. The more the general public knows about Masonry the more useful the Fraternity will become.

Masonry must be more universally understood, both inside and outside as a way of life which has a helpful, practical, supporting purpose.

There are five stages of life in every organism: birth, growth, use, decay and death. This applies to life groups, to nations and races. It applies to religions and systems of government. The stage of useful­ness should start during the stage of growth. Masonry is at the end of its growth stage and it must turn now to a state of usefulness.

In the new era Masonry should inspire all Masons to live a Ma­sonic life. How a Mason lives outside the lodge is much more impor­tant than what he does in it. Taking another degree, another oath, learning a new sign do not necessarily evidence forward steps in Masonic living.

We need not change our rituals. What we need is a change in the understanding of them. We need not change precepts or doctrines or duties. What we need is to recognize their significance and how to apply them in practical and useful ways in our daily lives.

California Freemasonry has taken the first step in Applied Freemasonry with the adoption of an outgoing, aggressive program of support for the education of our children in the dangers of alcohol and drug use. Masons individually and collectively must lead the way in demanding higher standards of education, greater citizen participation in government, local, state and nation. Work for a cleaner environment, preservation of the Bill of Rights, morality in government and business.

Historically Masonry resists change. But humanity is changing and like it or not Masonry, consisting of human beings, cannot di­vorce itself from human life.

The change from Speculative to Applied Freemasonry will not harm Masonry any more than the change from Operative to Specula­tive. For Masonry to live on in the future, it must demonstrate its usefulness to mankind. Now is the time to start.

The above article by Ralph H. Head, Editor, of the California Freemason, was in the 1989 Spring Issue of that publication. There has been some movement in the direction of Applied Masonry by a few Lodges and individuals; nothing earth shattering however.

There are many ways of making "connections" between Masonry and the community so that the principles and concepts of Masonry can be "APPLIED."

First, and most important are our programs to promote the awareness of Substance Abuse and the training of CORE GROUPS of educators in the identification of AT-RISK children in the Public Schools. The majority of adults of families in the public school system are non-masons. This is an area where we could assist individual schools with projects of their choosing; supporting our Public schools by having fund raising breakfasts and dinners is an excellent method to meet non-Masonic family members and for those families to see Masons in action in our Centers, Halls and Temple buildings.

Second, it is possible to work with various civic-minded and other fraternal organizations such as Chambers of Commerce, Lions Clubs, The Rotary, Elks, Odd Fellows, Kiawanas, Knights of Columbus, etc., in community projects designated to benefit the community as a whole. There are many Lodges who have a membership in a local Chamber of Commerce. Again, most of the members of these organizations are non-masons; there is not a better way to meet such people than working together on a project.

Third, most City Fire Departments have programs organizing and teaching the community to prepare for emergency situations. One such program is called the N.E.A.T. program or Neighborhood Emergency Assistance Team. Local Fire Departments are under manned and over worked and welcome any assistance in this approach of community involvement. Once again, most of the people you will contact in working on these programs will be non-masons.

"Applied Masonry” will reduce our concern, and rightfully so, in regard to our public image. It will also give us the answers to the following questions:

  • What does the community and non-mason think and know about us?
  • How are we regarded by the man on the street, both as individuals and as a group?
  • How can we gain the respect of the non-mason as long as we are unable to give good account or a reason for our existence?
  • Where will he get his inspiration to become a Mason?
  • How can we expect any worthy and honorable man to join our ranks without any knowledge of what his application will lead him into?

An enlightened and vocal membership active in the community, as well as the Lodge, will provide the incentive for a favorable, enhanced and exemplary public image.

We can proclaim by our actions that Freemasonry, in its every effort and purpose, strives to do charitable work within its membership and for society. Through its teachings it seeks to make good men better men. We can proudly state that the basic ethical principles as exemplified in our ritual and Lodge work are such as are acceptable to all good men. All of these lessons based on the Golden Rule, tolerance toward all mankind, respect for the Family and charity toward all, will not be visible in our communities until displayed by taking a third step, that of "Applied Masonry."


The frequent references to King Solomon’s Temple in this and other Degrees, has led to the false conclusion that the Fraternity was founded by him. Freemasonry became an organized craft many years after the reign of Solomon. However, our ritual is based upon Masonic legends connected with both Solomon and the Temple at Jerusalem, which has helped enrich the symbolism. The Biblical passages regarding the Temple can be found in the First Book of Kings, Chapters 5 to 8, and the First Book of Chronicles, beginning in the second chapter.


The answer is no. A secret society is one in which the membership is concealed, the meeting places are kept secret, and knowledge of its organization and principles is unknown to the public. True, we have a few secrets in Freemasonry: a part of our ritual, our modes of recognition and the business of the Lodge. Portions of our ritual have been handed down within Freemasonry for centuries and form a part of our tradition. However, our purposes, ideals and principles may be learned by anyone who inquires. There are numerous books on these subjects available to the public. All printed Masonic information, with the exception of our esoteric work, may be freely discussed in public. As Masons, we wear lapel pins and other Masonic jewelry, march in parades with our distinctive aprons, advertise the time and place of our meetings and openly sponsor charities. We can hardly be called a secret society. We do prefer to keep our rites confidential, because keeping them sacred and solemn can only enhance their initiatory value.

It should also be mentioned that the true secrets of Freemasonry are contained within the repository of the faithful breast and cannot be revealed to those who are not duly and truly prepared to receive them.


Again, the answer is no. Because of the nature of the teachings of Freemasonry, we require our candidates to acknowledge a belief in a Supreme Being and the immortality of the soul. Otherwise, the ceremonies would be meaningless. But there is no requirement that one belong to a particular religion or a particular church. That choice is a personal decision. It is the opinion of our Order that membership in our Fraternity will only enhance a man's experience in whatever religious community he chooses to belong. An atheist cannot become a Mason, because he cannot express a belief in a Supreme Being, nor can he pledge an oath to anything greater than himself.

Masonic ideals are not set forth in written creeds. For the most part, the individual Mason must interpret the rituals for himself and come to whatever understanding will satisfy his own mind and conscience, allowing others to do likewise. This is an example of Masonic tolerance, one of the primary principles of the Craft. Our Order seeks only to unite good men for the purpose of brotherhood - not to promote a specific religion.

Can a Catholic become a Mason? There is nothing within Masonry that prohibits a Catholic from becoming a member. There are many misunderstandings by the public, and sometimes even our own members, concerning this issue. These misunderstandings have led to many false conclusions and created barriers where none exist, so far as Freemasonry is concerned. Some Catholic Popes regarded Masonry with disfavor and have issued edicts that condemned Freemasonry and prohibited membership to all Catholics. In spite of this, many prominent Catholics have become Masons. Our organization generally has given no official recognition to these edicts. We have chosen to follow a course of “silence and circumspection” since the first edict was issued in 1738 by Pope Clement XII.


In Masonry are certain basic rules and principles called Landmarks, which cannot be changed or repealed by any Mason, Lodge or Grand Lodge. These Landmarks are an expression of that which belongs to Masonry's identity; if they were cancelled out Masonry would cease to be Masonry.

One of the most important of all these Landmarks is that which forbids us to participate, as Masons, in any form of religious or political sectarianism. We cannot question a candidate as to his peculiar beliefs in religion or politics; we cannot discuss such matters in any of our assemblies; and we cannot take any kind of public action with regard to them in the name of the Craft. A candidate must pledge himself to a belief in God and to a belief in immortality, and he must reverence the Holy Bible as a rule and guide for his life. The doctrinal interpretation he may place on these beliefs must, however, be left entirely to him. So also he must pledge himself to good citizenship, but his choice of a political party through which he works for the realization of his ideal of citizenship must be left entirely to him.

The Fraternity's attitude toward all such sectarianism is more than a negative one. It goes farther than merely to say "Hands off." It is rather a positive one, for it definitely prohibits all Masons from sectarian controversies in all forms. Such controversies are unmasonic that is, they are an outright violation of written Masonic law, and subject a member to severe discipline.

It is not difficult to understand the reason for this Landmark. Freemasonry exists for the sake of, is dedicated and devoted to, the life of Brotherhood. Brotherhood means that many of us, men drawn from all walks of life, with a great variety of racial characteristics and religions and political opinions, are brought together, and kept together, in a relationship of friendship, harmony, and goodwill. To maintain that harmony it is necessary that whatever passions and prejudices might divide us into opposing groups, feuds, schisms or conflicting cliques, must be kept out. It is notorious that nothing is more likely to divide and alienate men than religious and political sectarianism. For this reason sectarianism is prohibited because the needs and the welfare of Brotherhood demand it.

Freemasonry thus prohibits sectarianism within its own membership. But what, you may now wish to ask, is its attitude toward that sectarianism in the outside world which leads men to make war on Freemasonry itself? What is a Mason to do in response to attacks from the outside? This question is a pertinent one. During its whole history the Fraternity has been subject to attacks from without. In our own country a hundred years ago a coalition of certain churches with a national political party undertook to stamp Masonry out of existence. Two or three of the great churches of the world still maintain that same attitude toward it. At the present moment it has been dissolved by force by several of the powerful governments of the world. In all probability our Craft will always have such enmities to deal with, as does every other organization.

Our attitude toward such attacks is to ignore them. We do not fight back. We take the position that if some man (or group of men) disagrees with the teachings of Freemasonry that is his own private affair and does not concern us. We do nothing to invite, or to warrant such attacks, therefore they are no affairs of ours. Our faith in the truth and right of Freemasonry is so well-founded that we are certain it needs to do nothing except go on being itself in order to silence sooner or later any charges that may be made against it by any kind of enemies.

This sums up what we may describe as Freemasonry's negative attitude toward religious and political sectarianism. But it also has a positive attitude toward religion and politics, and it is to this that we next turn your attention.

That positive attitude in its most general sense takes the form of the great Masonic ideal of toleration. Tolerance has always been one of the Principal Tenets of our Order. What do we mean by tolerance? We do not mean that one belief is as true as another, or as valuable as another; we do not advocate a general indifference to all beliefs; nor do we hold that all differences of opinion should be melted down into a drab gray of compromise. As believers in toleration we take the opposite position; we believe that one belief is truer than another, that one opinion is better grounded than another: and we want the truth to prevail. But we know that the truth can never emerge unless each man is left free to see the facts for himself, to think for himself, to speak for himself, to confront life's realities for himself. Let each human mind have a fair deal; let it be left free to observe the world for itself. This, we believe, is the one way in which the truth about any of the great subjects of human life will ever be found. Tolerance, therefore, is a positive and constructive thing; it encourages each man to think for himself, because how otherwise shall men learn in the long run to think the" same things. In all our assemblies we try to deal with one another, in so far as religions and political opinions may be concerned, in this spirit of fair play; we may disagree, but we try not to be disagreeable.

But Freemasonry's attitude is even more definite than this.

First, as regards to religion, as said above that Freemasonry is dedicated to, and devoted to, Brotherhood. But this Brotherhood rests on a basis of religion. Every Mason must believe in God and in the immortality of the soul. The Bible must be open on every Lodge Altar. A candidate takes his obligations upon his knees. Before engaging in any important undertaking a Mason seeks aid and guidance through prayer from the Sovereign Grand Architect of the Universe. This is religious, but it is not a religion. It is faith—but it is not a faith confined to any one creed. It is worship—but it is not a worship chained to any one altar. In the great words of the First Book of Constitutions it is the religion "in which all good men agree." It is the ground, which underlies all religions, all churches, all creeds, all sects. Once Masons stand together on that ground they may afterwards proceed to build for themselves this church or that, may incline to one doctrinal interpretation or another: the Fraternity does not interfere with them in so doing, but it insists that whatever be their private opinions they shall stand on that ground.

Second, as regards politics. Politics means the discussion and determination of matters of public policy. Shall a government maintain a large army and navy or a small one? Shall it charge a tariff on goods shipped into it from abroad? Shall it have a strong central government, or a weak one? Shall it allow freedom of thought and speech, or not? Shall it grant religious freedom, or shall it set up a state church and compel all citizens to belong to it? How shall it impose and collect its taxes?

Each question of this kind is a question of national policy, and therefore of politics, consequently matters of politics are of the utmost importance and concern to any nation. Every citizen, if he is a good citizen, will bring to bear on such questions his best judgment and will do whatever his duty demands toward putting into effect such policies as are determined on.

This is good citizenship and Masonry demands of every member that he be a good citizen. Just as we saw that the religion of Masonry is that common ground which underlies all religious parties, so is this good citizenship the common ground under all political parties. A Mason may adhere to this political party or to that, may hold one opinion about the tariff or another, may believe in a large navy or in a small one; nobody can interfere with him in so doing; but what-ever be his party or his opinion, he must be a good citizen— law-abiding, faithful to the nation, loyal to the civil powers, as quick to do his public duties as to do his private duties.

To sum up: As a Mason you will never introduce into the Craft any controversial sectarian question; you will pay no heed to those from without who may attack the Fraternity; you will adhere to that religion in which all good men agree, and in your life as a member of the Commonwealth you will be loyal to the demands of good citizenship.


(Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth)

The principal, or chief, tenets of Freemasonry are, Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth. It is necessary not to overlook the word "principal," for it signifies that, while it is on these three teachings that our Fraternity lays the greatest emphasis, yet there are other teachings of almost equal importance, and in any discussion of our subject those others must not be lost sight of.

By a "tenet" is meant some teaching so obviously true, so universally accepted, that we believe it without question and always take it for granted. Examples of such teachings lie everywhere about us. Good health is better than illness; a truthful man is more dependable than a liar; it is better to save money than to waste it; an industrious man is more useful than an idle one; a wise man is a more able counselor than a foolish one; education is to be preferred to ignorance—these are but a few of the countless examples of teachings that no intelligent man can possibly call into question. Everybody takes them for granted. They are tenets.

When we turn to the Principal Tenets of our own Fraternity we are immediately struck by an interesting fact: Freemasonry considers Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth to be teachings of this kind! It holds them to be true in a sense that no man can question them: they are obvious, self-proving, axiomatic. I wonder if you have always considered them to be so? Is it not a common thing for men to consider Brotherly Love, for example, to be such a thing that, while it might be highly desirable, it is not practicable, and is therefore nothing but a floating vision, to be dreamed of but never possessed? It is challenging for Freemasonry to call such things "tenets," for it means that they are not only true, but plainly and obviously and necessarily true. Unless you can grasp this fact, unless you can see for yourself that the teachings of Freemasonry are realities, self-evident realities, and not visionary ideals, you will never be able to understand Masonic teachings. For Freemasonry does not tell us that 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. They are tremendous realities in human life, and it is as impossible to question their existence, as it is to question the existence of the ground under our feet, or the sun over our heads. The question is not whether we shall believe in them or not, for we cannot help but believe in them; the question is, what we are going to do about them?

Let us now reflect a moment upon the Principal Tenets, beginning with Brotherly Love. By love is meant the placing of the highest possible valuation on another person. A man's mother or father, his wife or sweetheart, his children, his intimate friends, he values for himself—not for advantages he may gain from them, not for their usefulness to him, but solely each one in his own person and for his own sake. We work for such persons, we make sacrifices for them, we delight to be with them; that, in detail and practice, is what is meant by love.

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, a fellow. Merely to be with him, merely to spend hours in his company, to have the privilege of working at his side, is all we ask. We do not ask that from our relationship we shall make money, or further our business interests, or achieve some other form of selfish gain. Our relationship with such a one is its own excuse for being, its own justification, its own reward. All of us know that this Brotherly Love is one of the supreme goods without which life is a lonely, unhappy, ugly kind of thing. This is not a hope or a dream, but a fact—as real as day and night, or as the law of gravity. Freemasonry builds on that fact, takes it for granted, 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; it is, in short, and in literal truth, one of its Principal Tenets.

Relief, which stands next in order, is one of the forms taken by the general principle of Charity. One must be distinguished from the other, however, especially as Charity is most often interpreted. When we think of Charity we think of pauperism, or of chance poverty; we think of it as being a condition it is necessary for the community or the state to care for. A man is crippled or chronically ill, or he is the victim of a wave of unemployment, or he is addicted to some vice, such as drink or gambling, with the result that his dependents are left in want; to care for such a man is deemed usually to be a responsibility resting on the public, and as a rule the public discharges that responsibility through some form of organized effort financed by general subscriptions or out of public funds.

The Masonic conception of Relief is somewhat different from this. While it happens that now and then some Brother, through misfortune and no fault of his own, becomes more or less permanently incapacitated to support himself and family, and under such circumstances is cared for by Outside Relief, at the Masonic Home, or by his Lodge, such cases are the exception rather than the rule, and are not what is meant by Masonic Relief. The qualifications demanded of a petitioner are such as to exclude the type of men who, through indolence or vice, may be expected to lapse into pauperism or into chronic poverty.

Masonic Relief takes it for granted, instead, that any man, no matter how industrious and frugal he may be, may through sudden misfortune, or other conditions over which he has no control, find himself in temporary need of a helping hand. To extend to him a helping hand under such circumstances is not what is generally described as charity, but is one of the natural and inevitable acts of Brotherhood. Any possible conception of Brotherhood must, in the very nature of the case, include as a part of itself this willingness to give help, aid and assistance. Therefore Relief, as thus Masonically understood, is in strict truth a Tenet. If we are going to have Brotherhood at all, we shall expect this free and cordial spirit of helpfulness to be a part of it.

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 necessarily, and is one of the things meant by Freemasonry's motto, "Let there be light." By Truth is meant that if we are to have a permanent Brotherhood its members must be truthful in character and habit, dependable, men of honor as well as of honesty, men on whom we can rely to be faithful fellows and loyal friends. Surely no argument is needed to prove that Truth, as thus understood, is a necessity, that it is required in the nature of things if a Brotherhood is to exist, and therefore something we should all take for granted as being beyond question.

As said in the beginning, Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth are the Principal Tenets of Masonry. There are other Tenets, also, teachings of a truth and necessity so obvious that argument is never necessary to sustain them. You are urged to ponder the teachings of the Craft as you progress from Degree to Degree with this in mind. You may not find that any of them are novel, or exciting. Novelty, however, while it may at times have its own interest, is not to be compared in value with the knowledge that the truths on which Freemasonry is founded are eternal: they are never new, neither are they ever old; time cannot wither nor custom stale their infinite variety, the freshness of immortality is on them because they never die, in them is a ceaseless inspiration and an inexhaustible appeal. They are tenets of Freemasonry because always and everywhere they have been tenets of human life.


The symbols, emblems and allegorical ceremonies of the First Degree have each a meaning; taken together these meanings comprise the teaching of the Degree. The time is too brief to give you complete explanations of them, or even to mention all of them, but believe it will be profitable to you to have a few hints and suggestions, especially as they will show that every detail of the Ritual is filled with a definite significance which each Mason can learn if he applies himself.

The symbolism of the hoodwink is twofold: first, it emphasizes the veil of secrecy and silence surrounding the mysteries of Freemasonry; secondly, it represents the mystical darkness, or ignorance, of the uninitiated. It is removed at the appropriate time; that is, when the candidate is in the proper attitude to receive Light and suggests that we do not make the great things of existence, such as goodness, truth and beauty, but find them; they are always there; it is our blindness that conceals them from us.

The Cable Tow is a symbol of all those external restraints by which a man is controlled by others, or by forces outside himself. If a man does not keep the law of his own free will he must be compelled to keep it by compulsion. The removal of the Cable Tow means that when a man becomes the master of himself he will keep the law instinctively, out of his own character, and not under compulsion. The length of the Cable-Tow is frequently referred to in the language of Freemasonry, but many of the new Brethren do not understand its meaning. Formerly, a Cable-Tow was deemed to be the distance one could travel in an hour, which was assumed to be about three miles. In California this is any reasonable distance from which a summons may be answered, health and business permitting. Each Mason is bound to all other Masons by a tie as long and as strong as he himself determines his ability will permit. One may also consider the idea of the silver cord (Ecclesiastes 12:6) and the Cable-Tow.

The Lodge is a symbol of the world, more properly of the world of Masonry. Initiation means birth, or a new birth, an entrance into that world. The symbol means that in its scope and extent Freemasonry is as broad as human nature and as wide as mankind and that as a spirit and ideal it permeates the whole life of every true Mason, outside the Lodge as well as inside.

The Ceremony of Entrance, by which is meant all that happens at the Inner Door and the passing between the Great Pillars, signifies birth or initiation and symbolizes the fact that a candidate is entering 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 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.

The Rite of Circumambulation. Circumambulation means to walk around some central point or object. It is Masonry's name for the ceremony of walking around the Lodge-room, an allegorical act rich with many meanings. One of the principal of these is that the Masonic life is a progressive journey, from station to station of attainment, and that a Mason will always be in search of more light. 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. An equally significant ceremony is that of approaching the East. The East is the source of light that station in the heavens in which the sun appears when about to chase the darkness away. Masons are sons of light, therefore face the East.

The Altar is "the most important article of furniture in a Lodge-room”. 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 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 obbligato 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 ancient oral penalties are retained in our ritual to impress upon the mind of each Brother how serious a violation will be regarded by the members of the Fraternity. The Obligations were 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 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 general public as the symbol of Freemasonry recognizes the Square and Compass.

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.

The Lesser Lights are the Sun, the Moon and the Master of the Lodge. The Sun is a symbol of that which is masculine, active, and aggressive; the Moon, of that which is feminine, receptive, gentle, nonresistant; when these two types of human action are maintained in balance, mastership is the result.

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 toward 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.” The Apron is at once the emblem of purity and the badge of a Mason. By purity is meant blamelessness, a loyal obedience to the laws of the Craft and sincere goodwill to the Brethren; the badge of a Mason signifies that Masons are workers and builders, not drones and destructionists.

The Words, Grips and Tokens are our means of recognition by which among strangers we are able to prove others or ourselves regular Master Masons in order to enter into fraternal intercourse.

The Rite of Salutation, in which the candidate salutes each station in turn, is, in addition to its function as a portion of the ceremonies, also a symbol of a Mason's respect for an obedience to all just and duly constituted authorities. The Old Charges state this in a single sentence: "A Mason is a peaceable subject to the Civil Powers, wherever he resides or works.''

The same significance is had by the office of Worshipful Master, who is a symbol as well as the executive officer of the Lodge. As the sun rules the day, he rules and governs his Lodge; his title, '' Worshipful,'' means that as the governor he is worthy of reverence, respect and obedience; and he stands for just and duly constituted officers everywhere, especially the heads of the State.

In the Rite of Destitution the candidate discovers that he has nothing of a metallic character on his person. This symbolism reverts to those ancient times when men believed that the planets determined human fate and controlled human passions, and that there was a metal by which each planet was itself controlled. In ancient initiations candidates were compelled to leave all metals behind, lest they bring into the assembly disturbing planetary influences. While with us this symbolism no longer has its astrological character, the old point about keeping out disturbing influences remains; the candidate is not to bring into the Lodge-room his passions or prejudices lest that harmony, which it is one of the chief concerns of Masonry to sustain, shall be destroyed.

The Northeast Corner is traditionally the place where the cornerstone of a building is laid; when the Apprentice is made to stand there it is because he is the cornerstone of the Craft’s future. What the Apprentices are today Masonry will become in the future. 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 Entered Apprentice is himself a symbol, one of the noblest in the whole emblematic system of the Craft. He represents youth, typified by the rising sun; but beyond that he represents trained youth, youth willing to submit itself to discipline and to seek knowledge in order to learn the great Art of Life, which is the real Royal Art, and which itself is represented and bodied forth and interpreted by all the Mysteries of Masonry.

It is by such voices and arts as all these, that our magnificent First Degree gives its teaching to the candidate as a Man and a beginning Mason. We sincerely hope that these hints, suggestions as to the meaning of these symbols and emblems, will lead the candidate to seek further for more light upon them, not alone in order that you may become a well-trained Mason, but also for their value to him as he lead his life outside the Lodge room.

Freemasonry makes extensive use of symbolism and allegory. A general study of symbolism is recommended to every Mason. Research into the historical uses and meanings of symbols utilized in the rituals, as well as a comparative study of mythology, provides a sure foundation for Masonic education. Especially recommended to Masonic researchers is a working knowledge of the stories from the Bible. Whenever a person or story is explicitly mentioned or alluded to in the rituals of our Fraternity, it is our task to find out why.

In Masonry, the Lodge is the center of activity. It is symbolically the Temple of Solomon. All degree work (ritual) and advancement is done within the Temple. The Temple is considered to be an exact replica of the divine world. It is sacred; it is the center of the universe. Its structure, furnishings, dimensions, and proportions – its architecture - are a mirror image of the Divine. Usually a temple is high upon the mountain (to be closest to God) and is considered the center of the cosmos. It is a sacred space, a place out of the ordinary. The Temple is the place where the human is most likely to encounter the Divine.

Being Masons, we might expect that the symbolism of stones would be important. The importance of stone symbolism is pervasive in religious thought. We can find references connecting stones with the gods back to the remotest times. It has been considered by some religious historians as being an archetypal image representing absolute reality. Many of the old gods (i.e. Mithras) were thought to be born from stones (petra genitrix). Stones possess the qualities of stability, solidity, and everlastingness which are also qualities attributed to the gods. There are numerous references to stones throughout the Bible which allude to a link between the stone, the sacred, and spirituality. In Isaiah 28:16 we read: “Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: …” In Psalm 118: 22 we find: “The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner.” Also, in Revelation 2:17 we read: “To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.” We also read (Genesis 28:11) that when Jacob had his vision of the angels and the ladder reaching to heaven, he used a stone as a pillow. After he awoke: “Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it. And he called the name of that place Beth-El (God’s House).”


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 those moral and spiritual virtues, habits and forces by means of which a man is enabled to reshape the crude and often stubborn materials of his nature in order to adjust himself to the needs and requirements of human society. If a man has lived planlessly, carelessly, without aim or ideal, he must, if he is to become a Mason, learn to systematize his life, must adopt a trestle board, as signified by the Twenty-four Inch Gauge. If he has traits of temper, habits of speech, or defects of character that disturb or injure others, and interfere with his taking his proper place in the Brotherhood, as "knots and excrescences" on a stone interfere with putting it into its allotted place in the building, he must rid himself of them. This is represented by the Common Gavel. 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. 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 word "Apprentice" means a beginner, a learner. In what is the Entered Apprentice Mason a beginner? Of what is he a learner? It is a privilege to give you some suggestions that will help you to answer these questions for yourself in order that you may better appreciate and understand the First Degree which recently was conferred upon you.

The Masonic Lodge room as represented in the Ritual is a symbol of the world. The particular form in which this symbol was cast harks back to early times when man believed the earth to be square and the sky a solid dome; but while this form no longer represents our own knowledge of the physical shape of the world the significance remains the same; the First Degree is not intended to be a treatise in geography or astronomy.

"What is this world which is thus represented? It is the world of Masonry it is the Masonic career from its beginning to its end, including all that lies between. The Great Pillars through which the candidate enters it represent birth and signify that in taking the First Degree he is being born into the Masonic life. Already he has been born into other worlds, physical and social, but now he is being born into Masonry; therefore he is poor, blind, and helpless, like a babe in its mother's womb. As one of our scholars has said of the candidate, '' The old life with all its accessories has dropped from him as completely as though he were dead. He is to enter on a new life in a new world.''

That new world is an organized world. Masonry is systematic, proportionate, balanced, and exists in the form of duties, laws and definite work, supervised and regulated, controlled through laws written and unwritten, expressed through Land-marks, traditions, usages, Constitutions, and By-laws, guided and directed through officers vested with power and authority. When the candidate takes his obligation it is to pledge himself to uphold that lawful system; when he salutes the Master and Wardens it is to signify his obedience to the legally constituted officers; when he is willing to follow his guide and fear no danger he expresses his trust in, and loyalty to, the Fraternity, as should a child which as yet is unable to trust himself.

The new world is a lawful world in which caprice and arbitrariness have no part. It has a definite nature of its own, it is devoted to specified purposes, it is committed to well-defined aims and ideals. Its members cannot make it over to suit their own whims or to conform to their own purposes; they must make themselves over to it, must conform themselves to its requirements. One does not become a Mason first in order to become a member; he becomes a member in order to become a Mason, and if there be in his nature anything that obstructs him, he must make use of his Working Tools to remove it. Among the first requirements demanded of the Apprentice is that he shall offer himself as a rough stone, to be shaped under Masonic laws and influences for a place in the Temple of Masonry.

The world of Masonry is a complete world. Existence in it is fully rounded, and it satisfies the needs of the whole man— physical, moral, intellectual, social and spiritual. It establishes its own physical conditions suitably to its needs. It requires of its citizens that they be good and true men, able to meet the test of the Square, the Plumb, the Level and the Compasses. It offers abundant opportunities for good fellowship and social contacts. It satisfies the mind with the great teachings of a profound philosophy. It worships God, prepares its altars, opens the Sacred Books and leads the life of prayer according to the needs of the soul. It is to learn such a life as this that an Apprentice must study to improve himself in Masonry; it is not permitted him to come merely for the loaves and fishes, or only to be entertained, or to seek for himself some personal advantage, but it is required of him that he shall build his life according to this trestle board of a well-rounded existence, assisted by guides and teachers, encouraged and inspired by experienced Brethren, and using the Working Tools and all other means provided.

This world of Masonry is dedicated to Brotherhood. Unless the Apprentice is willing and qualified to lead the brotherly life he will never be able to master the Royal Art. Unless in his obligations he pledges himself to live the brotherly life with genuine sincerity, the Mystic Tie can never take lasting hold of his nature. Unless he is willing to abide by the laws, everyone of which at bottom exists to define, regulate, or control the brotherly life, he will find himself out of joint with the Fraternity and unable to find foothold in the world he seeks to enter, All our ritual, symbols, emblems, allegories and ceremonies, in all the richness and variety of their meaning, point in the same direction; and except an Apprentice shall thus accept and understand them, he will fail to understand the Masonic teaching.

In taking his First Degree an Apprentice takes his first step into such a life as this; passes through the portals of birth into such a world as this; passes from the darkness, destitution and helplessness of the unenlightened world into the light and warmth of such an existence as this. This is the great meaning of the Degree; and the Degree therefore is not an idle formality, but a genuine experience, the beginning of a new career in which duties, rights and privileges are as actual as anything can be, so that if a candidate is to be more than an Apprentice in name only he must stand ready to do a work upon his own nature which may leave him a different kind of man.

As an Entered Apprentice he must therefore possess certain qualities. One of these is obedience. Except a learner is willing to obey his guides and teachers, there is no way for him to learn. Such obedience is not intended to be blind or servile, nor rest on fanaticism; it is only what is required of any man, young or old, who undertakes the mastery of a new art.

Another qualification is humility. An Apprentice will never be subjected to humiliation, but it is demanded of him that he have humility, a willingness to be led and directed, a freedom from egotism or conceit, a complete absence of any presumptuous belief that he knows already what he has only begun to learn.

With these he needs also industriousness. Freemasonry maintains a high threshold. It holds out no deceptive promise of an easy victory, but makes it plain that many obstacles and hazards will be encountered in the journey. Its members are called Craftsmen because they are workmen; its Lodges are called quarries because they are scenes of toil; it offers no wages or rewards except to those who earn them; it places Working Tools in the hands of its members, and not playthings.

Also it would be wise for any Entered Apprentice Mason to study a little in Masonic literature, not laboriously or necessarily at great length, but enough to familiarize himself with the Landmarks of our history, with our Ritual, philosophy, and jurisprudence. There is no need for you to buy such books; you may borrow them without charge from the Grand Lodge Library. Time invested in them will bring you a rich return in the future. These books may be obtained from Lodge libraries, from Masonic libraries located in our large cities and in some cases from public libraries. After completing the Degrees you will be in a better position to judge what writings will better serve your needs and it is suggested that before purchasing you give the matter the same serious thought and consideration you would give to any other financial transaction. Time, however, invested in Masonic study will bring you rich returns.

In conclusion you are urged to receive what has been said as to the nature of Apprenticeship, not as a series of pious moralizing or as a counsel of perfection. It is a solemn and serious thing to become a Mason. Once the step is taken, it may well change the course of a man's life, and frequently does. What has been said about the First Degree describes actualities and realities. Let that be all the more stimulus to you to do thoroughly the work of learning; if failure brings painful consequences success will bring a life-long reward. And our wish for you is abundant success.


The qualifications to be a Mason are clear and distinct. There are physical, moral and spiritual qualifications. In California, the petitioner must be a man of at least 21 years of age. He must be free of any previous felonious criminal convictions and be of good moral character. He must also believe in a Supreme Being and the immortality of the soul.

The physical qualifications are necessary because the person must be free to make his own life decisions and be responsible for himself. The moral qualifications are self-evident for the viability of any brotherhood and the lofty ideals of our society. The two spiritual qualifications not only inform the entire structure of Freemasonry but also align the Fraternity with the great Mystery Schools and religions of the world. It is the transition from belief to knowledge that seals the mark of true spiritual initiation.


After a man has applied for Masonic membership, and his background has been thoroughly investigated, the lodge members vote by secret ballot to accept or to reject him for membership.

Masonry's secret ballot is another of its ancient customs. It has been rather aptly said that when a petitioner is voted upon for Masonic membership he undergoes the "Ordeal of the Secret Ballot". To be elected, he must receive an affirmative vote from each and every member present at that meeting. Just one member out of all present - there could be twenty, or fifty, or a hundred members in attendance - can drop the black cube and deny him membership. When you consider the moral yardstick by which Masons measure membership applicants and that only one negative vote can reject a petitioner, it would seem reasonable to assume that a large proportion of petitioners would be rejected for membership. But that is not the case. Many, many more are elected than are rejected. That fact is testimony to the generally good judgment of those who recommend applicants, and it also indicates that the fraternity, by and large, attracts good men.

Much has been said and written, pro and con, about the secret ballot. Some argue, not without logic, that it is not fair for just one member out of all those who may be present at a meeting to be able to deny a petitioner membership. Others argue, also logically, that if even one member knows something negative about a petitioner, then that one member should have the right and the opportunity to prevent the entrance into Freemasonry of one he feels would bring discredit to it.

It goes without saying that a member who rejects a petitioner for mere petty reasons having nothing to do with moral fitness occasionally abuses the secret ballot, but such instances are rare and in almost every election the good man is elected to membership.

It is also undeniable that despite the requirements as to recommendation, as to background investigation, and as to unanimous secret ballot, an occasional undesirable person attains Masonic membership. Again, though, these instances are relatively rare. It should be remembered that if a member ever acts contrary to the rules and regulations of Freemasonry, he can be suspended or expelled from membership.


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.


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 planets determined human fate and controlled human passions, and that there were metals by which each planet was itself controlled. In ancient initiations, candidates were compelled to leave all metals behind, lest they bring into the assembly disturbing planetary influences. While with us, this symbolism no longer has an astrological character. However, 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 will be addressed in the next degree.


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 coming from this mythical Lodge, he proves that he hails from a “just and legally constituted 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 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; The Master, Senior Warden and Junior Warden and the 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 material, while the Perfect Ashlar is the Philosopher’s Stone. In Masonry the Rough Ashlar is a stone as cut in the quarry, a Perfect Ashlar is a stone madeready for the builders use. The Rough Ashler reminds us of our imperfections. The Perfect Ashlar reminds us of our hopeful attainment of perfection. 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.


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.

If you never remember anything else to explain to someone “What is Freemasonry” the charge in the first degree is quite complete. (California Monitor)

MY BROTHER:—Having passed through the ceremonies of your initiation, allow me to congratulate you on your admission into our ancient and honorable Fraternity. Ancient, as having existed from time immemorial; and honorable, as tending to make all men so who are strictly obedient to its precepts. It is an institution having for its foundation the practice of the social and moral virtues; and, to so high an eminence has its credit been advanced, that, in every age and country, men preeminent for their moral and intellectual attainments have encouraged and promoted its interests. Nor has it been thought derogatory to their dignity that monarchs have, for a season, exchanged the scepter for the trowel, to patronize our mysteries and join in our assemblies.

As a Mason, you are to regard the volume of the Sacred Law as the great light in your profession; to consider it as the unerring standard of truth and justice; and to regulate your actions by the divine precepts it contains. In it you will learn the important duties which you owe to God, your neighbor, and yourself. To God, by never mentioning His name but with that awe and reverence which are due from the creature to his' Creator; by imploring His aid in all your lawful undertakings; and by looking up to Him in every emergency for comfort and support. To your neighbor, by acting with him upon the Square; by rendering him every kind office which justice or mercy may require; by relieving his distresses and soothing his afflictions; and by doing to him as, in similar cases, you would that he should do unto you. And to yourself, by such a prudent and well-regulated course of discipline as may best conduce to the preservation of your corporeal and mental faculties in their fullest energy; thereby enabling you to exert the talents wherewith God has blest you, as well to His glory as to the welfare of your fellow creatures.

As a Citizen, you are enjoined to be exemplary in the discharge of your civil duties, by never proposing or countenancing any act which may have a tendency to subvert the peace and good order of society; by paying due obedience to the laws under whose protection you live; and by never losing sight of the allegiance due to your country.

As an Individual, you are charged to practice the domestic and public virtues. Let Temperance chasten, fortitude support, and Prudence direct you, and let Justice be the guide of all your actions. Be especially careful to maintain, in their fullest splendor, those truly Masonic ornaments — Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth.

Finally: Be faithful to the trust committed to your care, and manifest your fidelity to your principles by a strict observance of the Constitutions of the Fraternity; by adhering to the Ancient Landmarks thereof; and by refusing to recommend any one to a participation in our privileges, unless you have strong reasons to believe that, by a similar fidelity, he will ultimately reflect honor on our ancient Institution.



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.


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.


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.


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, all members, regardless of how they voted, should accept the decision. 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.


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 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.


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.


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.


These are very limited, since he cannot vote or hold office. He is, however, entitled to a Masonic funeral. The Entered Apprentice is not entitled to organized Masonic Charity, but this does not bar him from receiving assistance from a Mason, as an individual. 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. If charged with violating his obligation, he is entitled to a trial. He is entitled to apply for advancement to the Second Degree, when proficient in the Entered Apprentice Degree. He may not receive the degrees of Craft Masonry elsewhere without consent of the Lodge. Also, the Apprentice possesses modes of recognition by which he can make himself known to other Masons.


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.


Many men whose names have been instrumental to the history and development of our civilization have been Freemasons. The following are but a few of the many famous historical figures who have participated in our mysteries.


COMPOSERS: Irving Berlin, George M. Cohan, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, John Phillip Souza, Richard Wagner, Franz Joseph Haydn, Franz Listz, and many others.

ENTERTAINERS: John Wayne, Gene Autry, Ernest Borgnine, Joe E. Brown, Bob Burns, Eddie Cantor, Charles D. Coburn, William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody, Donald Crisp, Cecil B. DeMille, Richard Dix, Douglas Fairbanks Sr., W.C. Fields, Clark Gable, Arthur Godfrey, David W. Griffith, Oliver Hardy, Jean Hersholt, Harry Houdini, Al Jolson, Charles “Buck” Jones, Harry Kellar, Harold C. Lloyd, Tom Mix, Dick Powell, Will Rogers, Charles S. “Tom Thumb” Stratton, Richard B. “Red” Skelton, Paul Whiteman, Ed Wynn, Darryl Zanuck and many others.

SCULPTORS: Gutzon Borglum and his son, Lincoln Borglum (together carved Mt. Rushmore National Memorial), Johann G. Schadow (Prussian Court Sculptor) J. Otto Schweizer and many others.

WRITERS: Robert Burns, Samuel L. Clemens (Mark Twain), Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock Holmes), Edward Gibbon (Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire), Edgar A. Guest, Rudyard Kipling, Alexander Pope, Sir Walter Scott, Jonathan Swift, Lowell Thomas, Voltair and many others.


BUSINESS LEADERS: John Jacob Astor (financier), Lloyd Balfour (Jewelry), Lawrence Bell (Bell Aircraft Corp.), William H. Dow (Dow Chemical Co.), Henry Ford, Alfred Fuller (Fuller Brush), King C. Gillett (Gillett Razor Co.), Sir Thomas Lipton (tea), Fredrick Maytag, Andrew W. Mellon (banker), James C. Penny, George Pullman, David Sarnoff (father of T.V.), Leland Stanford (railroads - Stanford Univ.) and many others.


MILITARY LEADERS: Generals John J. Pershing, George Marshall, Douglas MacArthur, Joseph Stillwell, Johnathon Wainwright, Curtis E. LaMay, Omar N. Bradley, Henry H. “Hap” Arnold, Claire L. Chenault, Mark Clark, James Doolittle, Admirals David G. Farragut (First Admiral of the U.S. Navy), Ernest J. King, Richard Byrd and many others.

UNITED STATES PATRIOTS: Francis Scott Key (wrote our National Anthem), Ralph Bellamy (wrote our Pledge of Allegiance), Paul Revere, John Paul Jones, Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock, Patrick Henry and many others.

UNITED STATES POLITICIANS: Thomas Dewey, Everett Dirksen, Fiorello H. LaGuardia, John Marshall, Barry Goldwater, Hubert Humphrey, Robert Dole, Jack Kemp and others.

UNITED STATES PRESIDENTS: George Washington, James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, James Polk, James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, James Garfield, William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, William H. Taft, Warren G. Harding, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman and Gerald Ford.

WORLD LEADERS: Emilio Aguinaldo (Phillippine Patriot and General), Miguel Aleman (Mexican President 1947-52), Eduard Benes (President of Czechoslovakia 1939-48), Sveinn Bjornsson (1st President of Iceland), Simon Bolivar (“George Washington of S. America”) Napoleon Bonaparte (and his four brothers), King Charles XIII (King of Sweden 1748-1818), Sir Winston Churchill, Randolph Churchill, King Edward VII and King Edward VIII (Kings of England, 1901-10 & 36, respectively), Francis II (Holy Roman Emperor, 1768-1806), Frederick the Great (King of Prussia 1740-86), George I & George II (Kings of Greece, 1845-1913 & 1922-47), George IV & George VI (Kings of England 1760-1820 & 1820-30), Gustavus VI Adolphus (King of Sweden 1792-1809), Kamehemeha IV and Kemehemeha V (Kings of Hawaii (1854-63 & 1863-72) Leopold I (King of Belgium (1831-65), Peter the Great (Emperor of Russia 1689-1725), William I (King of Prussia 1861-88), William II (King of the Netherlands (1792-1849), William IV (King of England (1830-37) and many others.


RELIGIOUS LEADERS: James C. Baker (Bishop, Methodist Church, organized first Wesley Foundation in U.S.), Hosea Ballou (Founder, Universalist Church), Robert E. B. Baylor (Baptist clergyman, founder of Baylor University), Preston Bradley (founder of the Peoples Church), Father Francisco Calvo (Catholic Priest who started Freemasonry in Costa Rica in 1865), Hugh I. Evans (National head of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A.), Most Reverend Geoffrey F. Fisher (former Archbishop of Canterbury), Eugene M. Frank (Methodist Bishop), Reverend Dr. Norman Vincent Peale (Methodist Episcopal minister and author) Titus Low (President of Methodist Council of Bishops), Thomas Starr King, Swami Vivekananda and many others.


ASTRONAUTS: Ed Aldrin, Neil Armstrong, Gordon Cooper, Don Eisle, Virgil Grissom, Ed Michell, Tom Stafford, Fred Haise, and Wally Shirra.

EXPLORERS: Hiram Bingham (Discoverer of Machu Picchu), James Bruce (Discoverer of the source of the Blue Nile), Adm. Richard E. Byrd, Christopher “Kit” Carson, William Clark; Merriwether Lewis, and Robert E. Peary.

INVENTORS AND SCIENTISTS: Samuel Colt (firearms), Sir Alexander Fleming (penicillin), Edward Jenner (vaccination) Simon Lake (first practical submarine), John L. McAdam (Macadamized roads), Luther Burbank and many others.


SPORTS: Grover C. Alexander, Cy Young, Jack Dempsey, Arnold Palmer, Tyrus R. “Ty” Cobb, Carl O. Hubbell, Christopher “Christy” Mathewson, Mordecai P.C. Brown, Gordon “Mickey” Corchran, Avery Brundage, Albert “Happy” Chandler, Branch Rickey, Knute Rockne and many others.

YOUTH ORGANIZATION FOUNDERS: Daniel Carter Beard (Boy Scouts), Frank S. Land (International Order of DeMolay), William Mark Sexson (International Order of Rainbow for Girls)

Further information concerning famous and historical Freemasons can be found in Brother W.R. Denslow’s book “Ten Thousand Famous Freemasons”.

Appertaining belonging to, or connected with, as a rightful part or attribute; relating to
Archives a place in which records and historical documents and items are preserved
Bade told; ordered; requested; directed
Cable's Length a maritime unit of length; about 100 fathoms or 600 feet
Cable Tow a twisted rope, usually of cotton or synthetic material, used symbolically to bind or make fast; originally a particularly strong rope
Cardinal of basic importance; main; primary; essential; principal
Circumscribe to draw a line around; to limit in range of activity definitely and clearly
Circumspection carefulness in considering all circumstances and possible consequences
Clad covered or clothed
Conduce to lead or tend to a particular and desirable result
Corporeal having, consisting or, or relating to, a physical material body; not intangible
Divested to deprive or take away from; to undress or remove clothing, ornaments or equipment
Due proper; according to accepted standards or procedures
Engrave to cut figures or letters into wood or metal
Equivocation to avoid committing oneself to what one says; uncertainty; uncertain or questioning disposition or mind
Etch to produce as a pattern on a hard service by eating into the material's surface as with acid or a laser beam
Fellow a member of a group having common characteristics; an associate; an equal in rank or power or character
Fortitude strength of mind that enables a person to encounter danger, or bear pain or adversity, with courage
Guttural of, or having to do with, or involving the throat
Hail, Hele, Hale to hide or conceal; to cover; to keep out of view
Hoodwink a blindfold
Hoodwinked blindfolded
House Not Made With Hands, Eternal in the Heavens

that which lies beyond death; heaven
(II Corinthians 5:1)

Immemorial extending or existing since beyond the reach of memory, record or tradition
Impart to give; to communicate knowledge of something; to make known; tell; relate
Indite to write down; to put down in writing
Intrinsic belonging to a thing by its very nature; the essential nature or constitution of a thing; inherent; in and of itself
Invest to give; to furnish; to clothe
Inviolate not broken or disregarded; not told to others; respected
Light knowledge or understanding
Manual of, or having to do with, or involving the hands
Mystery the secret or specialized practices or ritual peculiar to an occupation or a body of people; rites or secrets known only to those initiated
Passions great emotion; the emotions as distinguished from reason; powerful or compelling feelings or desires
Pectoral in, on, or of the chest
Pedal of, or relating to, the foot or feet
Precepts a principal or instruction intended especially as a general rule of action
Prudence the ability to govern and discipline oneself by the use of reason; skill and good judgment in the management of affairs or the use of resources; caution or circumspection as to danger or risk
Saints John Saint John the Baptist and Saint John the Evangelist, the two ancient patron saints of Freemasonry
Shod wearing footgear, with shoes on
Steady constant in feeling, principle, purpose or attachment; dependable; firm in intent showing little variation or fluctuation; unwavering; resolute
Subdue to bring under control especially by an exertion of the will; to reduce the intensity or degree of; tone down
Superfluity excess; unnecessary; immoderate, especially living habits or desires
Superfluous exceeding what is needed; excess; extra; not needed; unnecessary
Temperance moderation in action, thought or feeling; self-restraint; a habitual moderation in the indulgence of the appetites or passions; moderation in, or abstinence from, the use of intoxicating substances
Tongue of Good Report having a good reputation; those who know you report that you are a good man; a credit to yourself and to society
Usual Vocation your job; the manner in which you make your living
Vouch assert; affirm; attest; to verify; to supply supporting testimony; to support as being true
Vouchsafe to grant or furnish; to give by way of reply
Warden an official having care or charge of some administrative aspect or an organization or some special supervisory duties; a British term used in the Episcopal Church and at various colleges and in government functions
Worshipful notable; distinguished; worthy of respect; a British term used as a title for various persons or groups of rank or distinction

Questions for the Entered Apprentice Mason

1. What does Freemasonry mean to you? What are its purposes, aims and ideals?

2. What is the difference between OPERATIVE Masonry and SPECULATIVE Masonry? Are we today Operative, Speculative or both?

3. What is the difference between SPECULATIVE Masonry and APPLIED Masonry?

4. Where and when did Freemasonry originate? From what date do we trace our modern origins? What occurred on this date?

5. What is the meaning of the titles A.F. & A.M. and F. & A.M.? In California, which title do we use?

6. Is Freemasonry a religion? Why or why not?

7. Is Freemasonry considered a Secret Society? Why or why not?

8. Allegorically, in what historical location is the degree work of our Lodges meant to take place? Why is this place so important?

9. Giving your own opinion, why do you believe that only one who believes in a Supreme Being may become a Mason?

10. What are the qualifications to become a Mason under the Jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of California?

11. What percentage of a Lodge must vote favorably upon an application for it to be accepted?

12. What do we mean when we say that a candidate must be first prepared in his heart?

13. What is the meaning of "duly and truly prepared"?

14. What is the symbolism of the Hoodwink?

15. What is the symbolism of the Cable-Tow?

16. How is the candidate received upon first entering a Lodge and what is it meant to convey?

17. What is the purpose of circumambulating (walking in a circle around) the Lodge room during the ceremony of initiation?

18. Who are the Holy Saints John and what is their importance in Freemasonry?

19. What are the Three Great Lights of Masonry and why are they placed in the center of the Lodge?

20. What does the open Volume of the Sacred Law (VSL) upon the Altar signify, and which Holy Book(s) do we use in California?

21. Give the meaning of the Square.

22. Give the meaning of the Compass.

23. Of what significance is the Obligation?

24. Even though the physical penalties mentioned in the Obligation are symbolic, why are they retained in the ritual work?

25. Of what is the Lambskin Apron an emblem? What does it signify?

26. What are the Working Tools of an Entered Apprentice Mason? After reading what the ritual has to say about them, what, in your own words, do you think they mean for us? Consider the difference between Operative and Speculative Masonry

27. What is the Rite of Destitution meant to teach us?

28. The North is a place of darkness. The East symbolizes the rising Sun or the dawn of illumination. Why is the Entered Apprentice placed in the North-East corner of the Lodge?

29. Name the Four Cardinal Virtues

30. What are the Three Great Supports of Masonry? To which Officers are they attributed?

31. What is the difference between a Rough Ashlar and a Perfect Ashlar? Why is this symbol considered by some to be the most important symbol in all of Freemasonry?

32. Define the term Cowan.

33. Define the term Eavesdropper.

34. What is the meaning of the term "Worshipful," and how is it used in a Masonic Lodge?

35. Give an example of one symbol from the Entered Apprentice Degree and describe its meaning. Look below the surface and try to see what universal principles it is meant to communicate.

36. What has been your experience of Freemasonry thus far? Has it met your expectations? Why or why not?

37. Did reading this book add anything to your experience in taking the First Degree of Masonry

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