You are now an Entered Apprentice Freemason – the first step in your journey through what is known as The Craft Degrees. The word ‘apprentice’ means ‘learner’ or ‘beginner’ – one who is taking his first steps in mastering a trade or profession.
The builders of the Middle Ages we call ‘Operative Masons’ because they were builders in the literal sense, hewing stone from the quarries, dressing to shape, and laying into walls and creating some of the most remarkable structures the world has ever seen.
As a modern Entered Apprentice Freemason you are a beginner in what we call ‘Speculative Masonry’. This means that we do not build in stone – we build in the hearts and minds of men ‘a system of morality’.
We do this with a series of interesting stories that contain symbols to help us illustrate and understand moral truth and justice.
Today you are an Entered Apprentice, in a short while you will become a ‘Fellowcraft’ and, in due time a ‘Master Mason’ and the day will come when into your hands will be placed the responsibility of your Lodge as Master.
What Freemasonry is to be in the future depends upon what you are now, as an Entered Apprentice. You are a symbol, a cornerstone on which Freemasonry of the future will be built. It is hoped that you will prove to be a solid foundation, true and tried, set four-square, on which our great Fraternity may safely progress.
This world of Freemasonry into which you have entered is dedicated to Brotherhood. Unless you, as an Apprentice, are willing and qualified to lead a brotherly life, you will never really learn the genuine secrets of our Order. It is therefore extremely important that the obligation into which you have entered will pledge you with heartfelt sincerity to live ‘a brotherly life’.
In this First Degree, an Apprentice takes his first step into this life. He passes through the portals of birth into this remarkable new sphere. He leaves the darkness of ignorance and helplessness of the ‘popular world’ for the light and warmth of this new experience.
This is the most important and great meaning of the First Degree. The ceremony is not an idle formality, like joining some social club or society, but a unique and genuine experience, the beginning of a new career, in which duties, rights and privileges are real and long-lasting.
It is most important that you are not an Apprentice in name only. You must be ready at once to begin to examine your own nature, and to work upon it to make you a different and better man.
It is wise to begin at once to make that Daily Advancement in Masonic Knowledge. This does not mean learning the ritual, it means to study a little Masonic literature, not necessarily at length, but enough to familiarise yourself a little with its history, philosophy, laws and regulations.
To become a Freemason is a serious and solemn undertaking. Once this step is taken it may well change the course of your life.
The principal tenets of Freemasonry are Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth.
It is necessary not to overlook the word ‘principal’, for it signifies that whilst our Fraternity lays the greatest emphasis on these three teachings, yet there are others of almost equal importance.
By a ‘tenet’ we mean some principle so obviously true, and so universally accepted, that we all believe it without exception. For example, that day follows night. Everyone takes that for granted. That is a ‘tenet’ 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 or even a neighbour.
We do not ask that from our relationship we shall make money, or further our business interests or achieve any selfish gain. This is not a hope or a dream, but a fact.
‘Relief’ is one form of charity. However, the Masonic concept of the word ‘Relief’ is different. Masonic Relief takes it for granted that any man, no matter who or what he may be may be, through sudden misfortune or conditions outside his control, becomes unable to support himself and his family, may temporarily be in need of a helping hand.
To provide that help is not what is generally described as charity. It is one of the natural and inevitable acts of Brotherhood.
The third and last of the principal tenets is ‘Truth’. It means something more than the search for truth in the intellectual sense. Freemasonry’s Motto is “Let there be Light”. In a Brotherhood such as Freemasonry, members must be truthful in character and habit, dependable, men of honour as well of honesty, men on whom we can rely to be faithful fellows and loyal friends.
These are the principal tenets of the Craft, teachings so obvious that argument is never necessary to sustain them. It is important to remember that they are the tenets of Freemasonry for the simple reason that always and everywhere they have been the tenets of successful human life There is not an item contained within a Masonic Lodge, or a facet in the jewel of Masonic ritual that does not have a symbolic meaning. It is going to take you a Masonic lifetime to discover what they are.
Then, this fleeting opportunity will not enable you to fully complete your task. This article is too brief to give a complete explanation of even The First Degree.
It can be no more than a simple example. The ‘hoodwink’ not only represents the darkness in which a candidate stands with regards to his Masonic life, it is more than that. It is:
The anticipation of Masonic illumination of knowledge to come.
Its removal – a reminder of the treasures of darkness.
Its revelation of the hidden riches of secret places.
‘Slipshod’ reminds us of two important extracts from the Bible:
“ Put off`thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.”
“ …a man plucked off his shoe, and gave it to his neighbour and this was a testimony of sincere and truthful intentions.”
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 do so. The removal of the cable tow signifies that when a man becomes a Freemason, he learns to be master of himself. By his own character he will keep the law instinctively.
We hope that these few examples of our symbolic meanings will lead you to seek for more Masonic light, not only to progress your Masonic knowledge, but also for their value to you as a citizen in the world outside.
As an Entered Apprentice you are now not only a member of your Masonic Lodge, but belong to the Antient
Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons under the United Grand Lodge of England, and you are therefore bound by its laws and regulations.
Your duties require that you remain faithful to your Obligation that clearly describes what is now required of you. You should study this Obligation very carefully, because both its words and their meaning will remain with you for as long as you live.
You now possess certain privileges that entitle you sit in a Masonic Lodge opened in the First Degree. You are now permitted to attend as a visitor other Lodges within our Constitution, but you would be wise, at this very early stage, to attend only when accompanied by either your Proposer, Seconder or Lodge Mentor.
You are now expected, as part of your duties, to begin to learn, and above all understand, the required portions of Masonic ritual so that you can prove yourself to be proficient in order to advance to the next stage of your Masonic career.
From now on, and throughout your Masonic career, make it your personal objective to make your Daily Advancement in Masonic Knowledge. There is so much to learn, and there is no time to be wasted.
To begin with, find out what is meant by “The Grand Charity”. There is an officer in your Lodge called the ‘Almoner’ – ask him for some information.
Finally, you should have received, at your Initiation, a Book of Constitutions. This is the set of rules and regulations.
You may find to read it is hard going.
Just take a few ‘snippets’ from time to time will be helpful.
With acknowledgement to MSANA: Tried and Proven – A Lodge System of Masonic Instruction
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