Commentaries on the
History, Philosophy, and Symbolism
of the Degree of
Excerpted from pages 18 – 63 of
by Albert G. Mackey
SYMBOLISM OF THE DEGREE.
The first degree, or that of the Entered Apprentice, is intended in its symbolic signification to furnish a representation of youth just entering on the struggles, the trials, and duties of an earthly and responsible existence. On his first admission into the Lodge, the candidate is reminded of the weak and helpless state of man on his entrance into the world—unprepared for the exigencies of the present, ignorant of the vicissitudes of the future, and dependent for his safety and very existence on that God in whom alone, in all trials and difficulties, is there any sure and abiding trust.
And as the youth is prepared by a useful and virtuous education for his journey through life, so the Apprentice obtains in his degree those first instructions whereon to erect his future moral and Masonic edifice. He now receives the elementary details of that universal language in which hereafter he is to converse with bis brethren of all nations, so as to understand and be understood by Masons of every tongue and dialect under the sun. He is directed to take, as a staff and scrip for his journey, a knowledge of all the virtues that expand the heart and dignify the soul. Secrecy, obedience, humility, trust in God, purity of conscience, economy of time, are all inculcated by symbolic ceremonies too impressive in their character ever to be forgotten. And, lastly, as charity forms the chief corner-stone of all the Masonic virtues, the beauty and holiness of this attribute are depicted in emblematic modes which no spoken language could equal. The degree of the Apprentice is, in short, one of probation and preparation for a more advanced position, and more exalted privileges and duties.
The first lecture of Freemasonry, or that appropriated to the degree of an Entered Apprentice, is divided into three sections. In this lecture virtue is painted in the most beautiful colors, and the duties of morality are strictly enforced. In it we are taught such useful lessons as prepare the mind for a regular advancement in the principles of knowledge and philosophy; and these are imprinted on the memory by lively and sensible images, to influence our conduct in the proper discharge of the duties of social life.
Every candidate, before his reception, is required to make the following declarations to the Senior Deacon, in the presence of the Stewards, in a room adjacent to the Lodge.
Do you seriously declare, upon your honor, that, unbiased by the improper solicitation of friends, and uninfluenced by mercenary motives, you freely and voluntarily offer yourself a candidate for the mysteries of Masonry?
Do you sincerely declare, upon your honor, that you are prompted to solicit the privileges of Masonry by a favorable opinion conceived of the Institution, and a desire of knowledge?
Do you seriously declare, upon your. honor, that you will cheerfully conform to all the ancient usages and established customs of the fraternity?
The first section of the Entered Apprentice's Lecture principally consists of a recapitulation of the ceremonies of initiation. But, on this account, a knowledge of it is highly necessary to every Mason, that he may be the better enabled to assist in the correct performance of the ritual of the degree. It is, however introduced by some general heads, which qualify us to examine the rights of others to our privileges, while they prove our claims to the character we profess.
It is, of course, impossible, in a monitorial work, to give a full explanation of the various symbols and ceremonies which are used in the inculcation of moral and religious truths; but an allusion, in even general terms, to the most important ones, in the order in which they occur, will be sufficient to lead the contemplative Mason to a further examination of their import.
THE SHOCK OF ENTRANCE.
In the symbolic science of Masonry, the Lodge is often represented as a symbol of life. In this case, Lodge labor becomes the symbol of the labor of life, its duties, trials, and temptations, and the Mason is the type of the laborer and actor in that life. The Lodge is, then, at the time of the reception of an Entered Apprentice, a symbol of the world, and the initiation is a type of the new life upon which the candidate is about to enter. There he stands without our portals, on the threshold of this new Masonic life, in darkness, helplessness, and ignorance. Having been wandering amid the errors and covered over with the pollutions of the outer and profane world, he comes inquiringly to our doors, seeking the new birth, and asking a withdrawal of the vail which conceals divine truth from his uninitiated sight. And here, as with Moses at the burning bush, the solemn admonition is given, “Put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground;” and ceremonial preparations surround him, all of a significant character, to indicate to him that some great change is about to take place in his moral and intellectual condition. He is already beginning to discover that the design of Masonry is to introduce him to new views of life and its duties. He is, indeed, to commence with new lessons in a new school. There is to be, not simply a change for the future, but also an extinction of the past; for initiation is, as it were, a death to the world and a resurrection to a new life. And hence it was that among the old Greeks the same word signified both to die and to be initiated. But death, to him who believes in immortality, is but a new birth. Now, this new birth should be accompanied with some ceremony to indicate symbolically, and to impress upon the mind, this disruption of old ties and formation of new ones. Hence the impression of this idea is made by the symbolism of the shock at the entrance. The world is left behind—the chains of error and ignorance which had previously restrained the candidate in moral and intellectual captivity are to be broken—the portal of the Temple has been thrown widely open, and Masonry stands before the neophyte in all the glory of its form and beauty, to be fully revealed to him, however, only when the new birth has been completely accomplished. Shall this momentous occasion be passed unnoticed? Shall this great event—the first in the Masonic life of the aspirant—have no visible or audible record? Shall the entrance, for the first time, into the Lodge—the birth, as it has justly been called, into Masonry—be symbolized by no outward sign? Shall the symbolism of our science, ever ready at all other times, with its beautiful teachings, here only be dumb and senseless? Or, rather, shall not all the Sons of Light who witness the impressive scene feel like the children of Korah, who, when released from the captivity of Babylon, and once more returning to the Temple, exclaimed, in the heart-burst of their grateful joy, “O, clap your hands all ye people; shout unto God with the voice of triumph.”
The Shock of Entrance is, then, the symbol of the disruption of the candidate from the ties of the world, and his introduction into the life of Masonry. It is the symbol of the agonies of the first death and of the throes of the new birth.
PRAYER AT THE INITIATION OF A CANDIDATE.
As Masons, we are taught never to commence any great or important undertaking, without first invoking the blessing of Deity. At the initiation of a candidate it is, therefore, usual to make use of the following:
“Vouchsafe thine aid, Almighty Father of the Universe, to this our present convention, and grant that this candidate for Masonry may dedicate and devote his life to thy service, and become a true and faithful brother among us. Endue him with a competency of thy divine wisdom, that by the secrets of our art he may be better enabled to display the beauties of godliness to the honor of thy holy name. So mote it be. Amen.
[This prayer is found in Preston, upon whose authority I have restored the word “godliness” instead of “virtuousness” used by Webb, or “holiness” adopted by Cross. The prayer, but in a very different form, is, however much older than Preston, who borrowed, abridged, and altered the much longer formula which had been used previous to his day. It is said that the prayer at initiation was a ceremony in use among the “Ancient” or “York Masons,” but omitted by the “Moderns.”]
THE RITE OF CIRCUMAMBULATION.
The rite of Circumambulation, derived from the Latin verb "circumambulare," to walk around anything, is the name given to that observance in all the religious ceremonies of antiquity, which consisted in a procession around an altar or some other sacred object.
Thus, in Greece, the priests and the people, when engaged in their sacrificial rites, always walked three times around the altar while singing a sacred hymn. Macrobius tells us that this ceremony had a reference to the motion of the heavenly bodies, which, according to the ancient poets and philosophers, produced a harmonious sound, inaudible to mortal ears, which was called “the music of the spheres.” Hence, in making this procession around the altar, great care was taken to move in imitation of the apparent course of the sun. For this purpose, they commenced at the east, and proceeding by the way of the south to the west, and thence by the north, they arrived at the east again. By this method, it will be perceived that the right side was always nearest to the altar.
Much stress was laid by the ancients on the necessity of keeping the altar on the right hand of the persons moving around, because it was in this way only that the apparent motion of the sun from east to west could be imitated. Thus Plautius, the Roman poet, makes one of his characters say, “If you would do reverence to the gods, you must turn to the right hand;” and Genovius, in commenting on this passage, says that the ancients, “in worshiping and praying to the gods, were accustomed to turn to the right hand.” In one of the hymns of Callimachus, supposed to have been chanted by the priests of Apollo, it is said, “We imitate the example of the sun, and follow his benevolent course.” Virgil describes Corynaeus as purifying his companions at the funeral of Misenus by passing three times around them, and at the same time aspersing them with the lustral water, which action he could not have conveniently performed, unless he had moved with his right hand toward them, thus making his circuit from east to west by the south.
In fact, the ceremony of circumambulation was, among the Romans, so intimately connected with every religious rite of expiation or purification, that the same word, “lustrare,” came at length to signify both to purify, which was its original meaning, and also to walk around anything.
Among the Hindoos, the rite of circumambulation was always practiced as a religious ceremony, and a Brahmin, on rising from his bed in the morning, having first adored the sun, while directing his face to the east, then proceeds by the way of the south to the west, exclaiming at the same time, “I follow the course of the sun.”
The Druids preserved this rite of circumambulation in their mystical dance around the cairn or altar of sacred stones. On these occasions, the priest always made three circuits, from east to west, around the altar, having it on his right hand, and accompanied by all the worshipers. And this sacred journey was called, in the Celtic language, Deiseal, from two words, signifying the right hand and the sun, in allusion to the mystical object of the ceremony and the peculiar manner in which it was performed.
Hence we find, in the universal prevalence of this ceremony and in the invariable mode of passing from the east to the west by the way of the south, with, consequently, the right hand on side to the altar, a pregnant evidence of the common source of all these rites from some primitive origin, to which Freemasonry is also indebted for its existence. The circumambulation among the Pagan nations was referred to the great doctrine of Sabaism, or sun-worship. Freemasonry alone has preserved the primitive meaning, which was a symbolic allusion to the sun as the source of physical light, and the most wonderful work of the Grand Architect of the Universe. The reason assigned for the ceremony in the modern lectures of Webb and Cross is absolutely beneath criticism. The Lodge represents the world; the three principal officers represent the sun in his three principal positions—at rising, at meridian, and at setting. The circumambulation, therefore, alludes to the apparent course of the solar orb, through these points, around the world. This is with us its astronomical symbolism. But its intellectual symbolism is, that the circumambulation and the obstructions at various points refer to the labors and difficulties of the student in his progress from intellectual darkness or ignorance to intellectual light or TRUTH.
The following passage of Scripture is used during the ceremony:
“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!
“It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard; that went down to the skirts of his garments;
“As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.” — Psalms 133:1-3.
The great teaching of this Psalm is Brotherly Love, that virtue which forms the most prominent tenet of the Masonic Order. And it teaches the lesson, too, precisely as we do, by a symbol, comparing it to the precious ointment used in the consecration of the High Priest, whose delightful perfume filled the whole place with its odor. The ointment was poured upon the head in such quantity, that, being directed by the anointer in different ways in the form of a cross, it flowed at length down the beard, and finally dropped from the flowing skirts of the priestly garment.
The fifteen Psalms, from the 120th to the 134th, inclusive, of which this, of course, is one, are called by the Hebrews, “songs of degrees,” because they were sung on the fifteen steps ascending from the court of Israel to the court of the women in the Temple.
The best commentators think that the 133rd Psalm is intended to represent the exultation of the Priests and Levites returned from the captivity at Babylon, and again united in the service of God in the sanctuary. How appropriate, then, is its adoption in this degree to commemorate the approaching release of a neophyte from the darkness in which he had been long wandering, and his admission into a society whose dwelling-place is intended as a representation of that glorious Temple at whose portals the very hymn of rejoicing was formerly sung. The candidate will not, of course, at the time, understand the allusion, but there is a striking analogy between the liberated Jew going up from the thralldom of Babylon to join once more with his brethren in the true worship on “the threshing-floor of Oman the Jebusite,” and the candidate for Masonry, coming out of the blindness and darkness of the profane world, to search for light and truth within the sacred precincts of the Lodge.
THE THREE GATES OF THE TEMPLE.
Dr. Dalcho, in his “Orations,” has found great fault with the York rite of Masonry, because it has in its ceremonies perpetrated the error of furnishing the Temple of Solomon with three gates—one at the south, one at the west, and one at the east—while in truth there was but one gate to the Temple, and that was in the porch at the east end. But the real error lies with Dr. Dalcho, who has mistaken a symbolic allusion for a historical statement. It is not pretended, that because Masonry has adopted the Temple of Jerusalem as the groundwork or elementary form of all its symbols, a Lodge is therefore ever expected, except in a symbolic sense, to be a representative of the Temple. On the contrary, the very situation of a Lodge is the exact reverse of that of the Temple. The entrance of the former is at the west, that of the latter was at the east. The most holy place in a Lodge is its eastern end, that of the Temple was its western extremity.
The fact is, that in Masonry, all allusions to the Temple of Solomon are simply symbolic, and while the great symbol of a material temple, prefiguring a spiritual one, is preserved, no care has ever been taken to obtain correctness of architectural details, or even of strictly historical facts.
The circumambulation and the three supposed gates, referred to and explained in this section of the lecture, are symbolical of the progress of every man in his journey in search of Truth, the great object of all Masonic labor, and of the embarrassments and obstructions that he must meet with in that search. Hence our French brethren call this circumambulation a voyage, and each voyage is typical of some danger or trial of human life.
THE OBLIGATION OF SECRECY.
The duty of an Entered Apprentice is embraced by the virtues of silence and secrecy. Speaking of the origin of those duties among Masons in the primitive period of their origin, Brother Nicholson [Lecture on the “Symbolism of Freemasonry,” p. 15.] says: “As idolatry prevailed upon the earth [immediately after the Deluge], it became necessary for those who held to the worship of the true God to form themselves into a distinct order—not only those who were of the children of Israel, but also others, who retained the traditions of Israel's God, though of Gentile blood. The time arrived when openly to worship the true God was attended with danger; and then it was that our brethren had special recourse to hieroglyphics and symbols to preserve secrecy, lest they should be exposed to the arm of persecution. But as, indeed, the arcana or recondite points of religion were always in possession of the priests alone, among the different idolatrous peoples; and as peculiar forms of initiation were practiced by them, attended with the greatest secrecy (not to say with positive danger to the candidates), the same practice was resorted to by the votaries of the true God, at least so far as secrecy was concerned—secrecy from that time forth ranking as a virtue among Masons, and justly so. Again, to preserve the privileges of the Order, strict secrecy was observed, lest those privileges should become abused. Among the ancients, secrecy stood high as a mark of wisdom.”
Calcott also, on this subject says: “If we turn our eyes back to antiquity, we shall find that the old Egyptians had so great a regard for silence and secrecy in the mysteries of their religion, that they set up the god Harpocrates, to whom they paid particular honor and veneration, who was represented with his right hand placed near the heart, and the left down by his side, covered with a skin, before full of eyes and ears, to signify that, of many things to be seen and heard, few are to be published.”
THE UNWRITTEN LANDMARKS.
The instructions which constitute the hidden or esoteric knowledge in Freemasonry are forbidden to be written, and can only be communicated by oral intercourse of one Mason with another. This is another instance of the great antiquity of the usages of Freemasonry, which is presenting such collateral evidences of its venerable age.
In all the ancient mysteries, the same reluctance to commit the esoteric instructions of the hierophants to writing is apparent and hence the secret knowledge taught in their initiations was preserved in symbols, the true meaning of which was closely concealed from the profane.
The Druids had a similar regulation; and Caesar informs us that it was not considered lawful to intrust their sacred verses to writing; but these were always committed to memory by their disciples.
The same custom prevailed among the Jews with respect to the Oral Law, which was never intrusted to books; but, being preserved in the memories of the priests and wise men, was handed down, from one to the other, through a long succession of ages.
Maimonides has described, according to the Rabbinical traditions, the mode adopted by Moses to impress the principles of this Oral Law.
The secret doctrine of the Cabala, or the mystical philosophy of the Hebrews, was, also, communicated in an oral form, and, says Maurice, “transmitted, verbally, down to all the great characters celebrated in Jewish antiquity—among whom both David and Solomon were deeply conversant in its most hidden mysteries. Nobody, however, had ventured to commit anything of this kind to paper.”
The Christian Church, in the age immediately succeeding the Apostolic, observed the same custom of oral instruction. The early Fathers were eminently cautious not to commit certain of the mysterious dogmas of their religion to writing, lest the surrounding pagans should be made acquainted with what they could neither understand nor appreciate. St. Basil, treating of this subject, in the fourth century, says: “We receive the dogmas transmitted to us by writing and those which have descended to us from the Apostles, beneath the mystery of oral tradition; for several things have been handed to us without writing, lest the vulgar, too familiar with our dogmas, should lose a due respect for them.”
A custom so ancient as this, of keeping the landmarks unwritten, and one so invariably observed by the Masonic fraternity, we may very naturally presume, must have been originally established with the wisest intentions; and as the usage was adopted by many other institutions, whose organization was similar to that of Freemasonry, we may also suppose that it was connected with the character of an esoteric instruction.
The following passage of Scripture is here used:
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be Light: and there was Light.” — Genesis 1:1-3.
THE SHOCK OF ENLIGHTENMENT.
The material light which sprung forth at the fiat of the Grand Architect, when darkness and chaos were dispersed, has ever been, in Masonry, a favorite symbol of that intellectual illumination which it is the object of the Order to create in the minds of its disciples, whence we have justly assumed the title of “Sons of Light.” This mental illumination—this spiritual light, which, after his new birth, is the first demand of the candidate, is but another name for Divine Truth—the truth of God and the soul—the nature and essence of both—which constitute the chief design of all Masonic teaching. And as the chaos and confusion in which, “in the beginning,” the earth, “without form, and void,” was enwrapt were dispersed, and order and beauty established by the Supreme command which created material light; so, at the proper declaration, and in the due and recognized form, the intellectual chaos and confusion in which the mind of the neophyte is involved are dispersed, and the true knowledge of the science and philosophy, the faith and doctrine of Masonry, are developed.
But what mind can conceive, or what pen portray, that terrible convulsion of nature, that awful disentanglement of its elements, which must have accompanied the Divine command, “Let there be light!” The attempt to describe it would be a presumptuous task. We feel, when we meditate on the subject, that stillness and silence must have fled before the Almighty Voice, and the earth itself have trembled in its new existence, when the gloomy pall of darkness was rolled as a curtain from the face of nature.
And in Masonry, by the Shock of Enlightenment, we seek, humbly, indeed, and at an inconceivable distance, to preserve the recollection and to embody the idea of the birth of material light by the representation of the circumstances that accompanied it, and their reference to the birth of intellectual or Masonic light. The one is the type of the other; and hence the illumination of the candidate is attended with a ceremony that may be supposed to imitate the primal illumination of the universe—most feebly, it is true, and yet not altogether without impressiveness.
The Shock of Enlightenment is, then, a symbol of the change which is now taking place in the intellectual condition of the candidate. It is the symbol of the birth of intellectual light and the dispersion of intellectual darkness.
THE HOLY BIBLE.
The Holy Bible is given to us as the rule and guide of our faith; the Square, to square our actions; and the Compasses, to circumscribe our desires and passions in due bounds with all mankind, but more especially with brother Masons; and hence the Bible is the light which enlightens the path of our duty to God; the Square, that which enlightens the path of duty to our fellow-men; and the Compasses, that which enlightens the path of our duty to ourselves.
The lesser lights are intended to remind us of that symbolism which makes the Lodge a type of the world; and hence the Master, presiding and dispensing light, may well be compared to those heavenly luminaries which were made, “the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night;” and we are thus reminded, that as the sun rules the day and the moon governs the night, so should the W:. M:. rule and govern his Lodge with equal regularity and precision.
Note.—Errors are so often made in placing the lights around the altar, that the preceding diagram is inserted for the direction of the Senior Deacon, whose duty it is to see that they are properly distributed. The stars represent the positions of the lights in the E., W., and S., and the black dot, the place of darkness in the N., where there is no light. The dotted line passing through these points in the diagram represents the limits of the Lodge, and above that the lights are in the proper cardinal points.
When being clothed as an Entered Apprentice, the candidate receives the following charge:
I present you with this lambskin or white leather apron, which is an emblem of innocence and the badge of a Mason, more ancient than the Golden Fleece or Roman Eagle; more honorable than the Star and Garter, or any other order that could be conferred upon you, at this or any other future period, by king, prince, or potentate, or any other person, except he were a Mason and in the body of a Lodge, and which, I trust, you will wear with equal pleasure to yourself and honor to the fraternity.
[The Order of the Golden Fleece was an order of knighthood instituted in 1429, by Philip, Duke of Burgundy. There is no such order as the Knights of the Roman Eagle. The expression (which is an unhappy one) probably refers to the fact that the Eagle was the standard of the ancient Roman Empire. The Order of the Garter, the most noble of the British orders of knighthood, was instituted in 1341, by Edward III. The Star and the Garter an the insignia bestowed upon and worn by a knight.]
THE LAMBSKIN APRON.
The use of the apron, or some equivalent mode of investiture as a mystic symbol, was common to all the religious systems of antiquity. Among the Israelites, the girdle formed a part of the investiture of the priesthood. In the Persian mysteries of Mithras the candidate was invested with a white apron. In the Brahminical initiations of Hindostan, the Zennaar, or sacred Lord, was substituted for the apron. The Essenians clothed their novices with a white robe. Even the Japanese, in their rites of initiation, invest their candidate with a white apron.
The color of a Mason's apron should be pure white, because this color has in all ages and countries been deemed an emblem of purity and innocence. Thus, in the early ages of the Christian Church, the newly-baptized convert was invested with a white robe, to denote that he had been cleansed from his former sins, and was thenceforth to lead a life of purity. With a similar meaning, the same undefiled color has been preserved in the apron of the Freemason.
The material of a Mason's apron must be lambskin. No other substance, such as linen, silk, or satin, can be substituted, without entirely destroying the symbolic character of the apron, because the lamb has in all ages been deemed the appropriate emblem of innocence.
The true Masonic apron should, then, be of unspotted lambskin, from 14 to 16 inches wide, and from 12 to 14 inches deep, with a fall about 3 or 4 inches deep, square at the bottom, with sharp angular corners, and without device or ornament of any kind. The usage of the craft in this country has, within a few years past, allowed a narrow edging of blue ribbon, in allusion to that universal friendship which is the bond of the Society, and of which virtue blue is the symbol. But this, undoubtedly, is an innovation, for the ancient apron was without any edging or ornament. All extraneous ornaments and devices are in bad taste, and distract from the symbolic character of the investiture. But the silk or satin aprons, bespangled, and painted, and embroidered, which have been gradually creeping into our Lodges, have no sort of connection with Ancient Craft Masonry. They are an innovation of French origin, which should be persistently discouraged by all who admire the simplicity and beauty of our symbols. A Mason who duly and truly appreciates the symbolic meaning of his apron would no more tolerate a linen one for its economy, or an embroidered satin one for its decorations, than an artist would a gilded statue. The lambskin, and the lambskin alone, is the badge “more ancient than the Golden Fleece or Roman Eagle, and more honorable than the Star and Garter.”
THE NORTHEAST CORNER.
In the important ceremony which refers to the northeast corner of the Lodge, the candidate becomes as one who is to all outward appearance a perfect and upright man and Mason, the representative of a spiritual corner-stone, on which he is to erect his future moral and Masonic edifice.
This symbolic reference of the corner-stone of a material edifice to a Mason when, at his first initiation, he commences the moral and intellectual task of erecting a spiritual temple in his heart, is beautifully sustained when we look at all the qualities that are required to constitute a “well-tried, true, and trusty” corner-stone. The squareness of its surface, emblematic of morality—its cubical form, emblematic of firmness and stability of character—and the peculiar finish and fineness of the material, emblematic of virtue and holiness—show that the ceremony of the northeast corner of the Lodge was undoubtedly intended to portray, in the consecrated language of symbolism, the necessity of integrity and stability of conduct, of truthfulness and uprightness of character, and of purity and holiness of life, which just at that time and in that place the candidate is most impressively charged to maintain.
THE WORKING TOOLS.
The working tools of an Entered Apprentice are the Twenty-four-inch Guage and the Common Gavel.
The Twenty-four-inch Guage is an instrument used by operative masons to measure and lay cut their work; but we, as Free and Accepted Masons, are taught to make use of it for the more noble and glorious purpose of dividing our time. It being divided into twenty-four equal parts, is emblematica1 of the twenty-four hours of the day, which we are taught to divide into three equal parts; whereby are found eight hours for the service of God and a distressed worthy brother; eight for our usual vocations; and eight for refreshment and sleep.
The Common Gavel is an instrument made use of by operative masons to break off the corners of rough stones, the better to fit them for the builder's use; but we, as Free and Accepted Masons, are taught to make use of it for the more noble and glorious purpose of divesting our hearts and consciences of all the vices and superfluities of life; thereby fitting our minds as living stones for that spiritual building, that house “not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”
This presentation of the working tools of a stone-mason to the candidate must necessarily attract his attention to the fact that there is a connection between the operative art and the speculative science, which connection simply consists in this, that speculative Masonry is the application and sanctification of the working tools and implements, the rules and principles of operative masonry, to the veneration of God and the purification of the heart.
The Operative Masons at Jerusalem, from whom we date our origin, were occupied in the construction of an earthly and material temple, to be dedicated to the service and worship of God—a house in which the mighty Jehovah was to dwell visibly by his Shekinah, and whence he was, by Urim and Thummin, to send forth his oracles for the government and direction of his chosen people.
The Speculative Mason is engaged in the construction of a spiritual temple in his heart, pure and spotless, fit for the dwelling-place of Him who is the author of purity; where God is to be worshiped in spirit and in truth, and whence every evil thought and unruly passion are to be banished, as the sinner and the Gentile were excluded from the sanctuary of the Jewish Temple.
In the symbolic language of Masonry, therefore, the twenty-four-inch guage is a symbol of time well employed; the common gavel, of the purification of the heart.
In the Ancient Mysteries, the first step taken by the candidate was a lustration or purification. The candidate was not permitted to enter the sacred vestibule, or to take any part in the secret formula of initiation, until by water or fire he was emblematically purified from the corruptions of the world which he was about to leave behind. A similar principle exists in Freemasonry where the first symbols presented to the Entered Apprentice are those which inculcate a purification of the heart, of which the purification of the body in the Ancient Mysteries was symbolic.
We no longer make use of the bath or the fountain, because in our philosophical system the symbolism is more abstract; but we present the candidate with the apron, the guage, and the gavel, as symbols, of a spiritual purification. The design is the same, but the mode in which it is accomplished is different.
ARCHIVES OF THE LODGE.
In former times, before the general use of writing, men were accustomed to avail themselves of any imperishable substance as a memorial of some transaction, the record of which would now be committed to paper or parchment. Hence we find in the primitive Christian Church, that a fish-shaped die was used as a certificate of membership, and was so recognized from town to town and from church to church. Especially was a piece of metal or ivory made use of by the ancients as a token of a pledge of amity. Being broken into two pieces, the host, when he had entertained a stranger who was about to depart, gave the guest one part while he retained the other; and these broken pieces served in all times afterward as a memorial of the pledge of friendship that had been thus inaugurated. It may be that the Masonic custom of asking for the deposit of something of the kind in the Archives of the Lodge as a memorial, may have reference to this custom. The candidate is supposed to be thus giving his pledge of fidelity to the Institution. But the subsequent part of the ceremony would teach him that no material and tangible pledge is really wanted, but that the true pledge of Masonic friendship is deposited in the heart. At a future period, in the next section, an opportunity is taken to exemplify the practical application of the pledge thus made, by an impressive charge on the nature of charity.
The second section of the first lecture, according to the system prevailing in this country, is occupied with an explanation of the symbolic meaning of the ceremonies that are detailed in the first; without, therefore, a knowledge of the second section, the first becomes barren and insignificant. It must, however, be confessed that many of the interpretations given in this section are unsatisfactory to the cultivated mind, and seem to have been adopted on the principle of the old Egyptians, who made use of symbols to conceal rather than to express their thoughts. Learned Masons have been, therefore, always disposed to go beyond the mere technicalities and stereotyped phrases of the lectures, and to look in the history and the philosophy of the ancient religions, and the organization of the ancient mysteries, for a true explanation of most of the symbols of Masonry, and there they have always been enabled to find this true interpretation. The usual lecture is, however, still preserved as a brief mode of acquiring a general knowledge of the mode of Masonic instruction, and as furnishing sufficient proof of the definition that “Freemasonry is a system of morality vailed in allegory and illustrated by symbols.”
[Webb, Cross, and Hardie, and our other monitorial writers, have printed very little of this section, although they have been exceedingly liberal in their publication of the third section. I have not deemed it expedient to go much beyond their degree of reticence, but I have taken occasion, as being much more useful, to invite attention to the coincidences existing between the ceremonies of Masonry and those of the ancient systems of initiation. The allusions, where I have felt constrained to be cautious in my language, will be well understood by the Mason who has made himself acquainted with the authorized lecture of the degree.]
There is much analogy between the preparation of the candidate in Masonry and the preparation for entering the Temple, as practiced among the ancient Israelites. The Talmudical treatise entitled “Beracoth” prescribes the regulation in these words: “No man shall enter into the Lord's house with his staff [an offensive weapon], nor with his outer garment, nor with shoes on his feet, nor with money in his purse.”
Various passages of Scripture are referred to in this section as elucidating the traditions of Masonry on the subject of the Temple.
“And we will cut wood out of Lebanon, as much as thou shalt need; and we will bring it to thee in floats by sea to Joppa; and thou shalt carry it up to Jerusalem.” — 2 Chronicles 2:16.
“And the house, when it was in building, was built of stone made ready before it was brought thither: so that there was neither hammer, nor axe, nor any tool of iron heard in the house, while it was in building.” — 1 Kings 6:7.
Josephus says: “The whole structure of the Temple was made with great skill, of polished stones, and those laid together so very harmoniously and smoothly, that there appeared to the spectators no sign of any hammer or other instrument of architecture, but as if, without any use of them, the entire materials had naturally united themselves together, so that the agreement of one part with another seemed rather to have been natural, than to have arisen from the force of tools upon them.” [Josephus, Flavius. The Antiquities of the Jews. b. VIII, ch. III, sec. 2, p. 177.]
“Now this was the manner in former time in Israel concerning redeeming and concerning changing, for to confirm all things; a man plucked off his shoe, and gave it to his neighbor: and this was a testimony in Israel.” — Ruth 4:7.
In the Ancient Mysteries the aspirant was always kept for a certain period in a condition of darkness. Hence darkness became the symbol of initiation. Applied to Masonic symbolism, it is intended to remind the candidate of his ignorance, which Masonry is to enlighten; of his evil nature, which Masonry is to purify; of the world, in whose obscurity he has been wandering, and from which Masonry is to rescue him.
“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” — Matthew 7:7.
In the ancient initiations the candidate was never permitted to enter on the threshold of the temple or sacred cavern in which the ceremonies were to be conducted, until by the most solemn warning he had been impressed with the necessity of caution, secrecy, and fortitude.
As Masons, we are taught never to commence any great or important undertaking without first invoking the blessing and protection of Deity, and this is because Masonry is a religious institution, and we thereby show our dependence on and out trust in God.
A BELIEF IN GOD.
This constitutes the sole creed of a Mason—at least, the only creed that he is required to profess. But such a profession is essentially and absolutely necessary, because, without a belief in a superintending Power, with the inevitable deduction from the purity and holiness of such a Being, that sin will be punished and virtue rewarded, there would be no sanction to a moral law, for the atheist would have no motive to keep a promise or to preserve an obligation.
THE LEFT SIDE.
The left side has always, apparently for a well-known physical reason, been deemed inferior to the right. The right side is the side of honor. “To sit on the right side of the king” was a mark of great favor. And the ancients were so impressed with this fact, that among them the words for left and unlucky were synonymous, as were also those for right and fortunate. The same peculiarity exists in our own language, where sinister means both left and inauspicious.
THE RIGHT HAND.
The right hand has in all ages been deemed an emblem of fidelity, and our ancient brethren worshiped Deity under the name of Fides or Fidelity, which was sometimes represented by two right hands joined, and sometimes by two human figures, holding each other by the right hands.
Numa was the first who erected an altar to Fides, under which name the goddess of oaths and honesty was worshiped. Obligations taken in her name were considered as more inviolable than any others. [Montfaucon mentions several medals in which Fides was represented by two hands joined together, which, he says, “was the most usual symbol.”]
THE BADGE OF A MASON.
The lamb has in all ages been deemed an emblem of innocence; by the lambskin, the Mason is therefore reminded of that purity of life and conduct which is so essentially necessary to his gaining admission into the celestial Lodge above, where the Supreme Architect of the Universe presides.
THE FIRST INSTRUCTIONS.
The candidate receives those first instructions whereon to erect his future moral and Masonic edifice in a particular part of the Lodge, because as on the night of his initiation he commences the great task, which is never in his future Masonic life to be discontinued, of erecting in his heart a spiritual temple for the indwelling of God, of which the great material Temple at Jerusalem was but the symbol; and as each new duty which he learns, and each new virtue that he practices, becomes a living stone in that temple, it is proper that, respecting the whole system of symbolism, he should begin the labor of erecting a spiritual temple just as the operative mason would commence the construction of his material temple, by first laying the cornerstone on which the future edifice is to arise. His first instructions constitute that corner-stone, and on it, when laid in its proper place, he constructs the moral and Masonic temple of his life.
THE LESSON OF CHARITY.
Although Freemasonry is indebted for its origin to its religious and philosophic character, yet charity, in the ordinary adaptation of relief of the distressed, becomes, although incidentally, a prominent feature in its teachings. And hence it has been well said, that there is no institution whose laws more strongly enforce, or whose precepts more earnestly inculcate, the virtue of charity. In allusion to the ceremony now under consideration, Tannehill remarks that “it is among the first lessons we are taught, when we pass the threshold of the mystic temple.”
The third section of the Entered Apprentice's lecture explains the nature and principles of our constitution, and furnishes many interesting details relating to the Form, Supports, Covering, Furniture, Ornaments, Lights, and Jewels of a Lodge, how it should be situated, and to whom dedicated.
Nearly the whole of this section has been made monitorial. Webb, and after him Cross, Hardie Tannehill, and all other monitorial writers, have left but little of it unpublished. I have, on the same principle, slightly increased the amount of information given, by the publication of one or two passages, hitherto excepted from publication in other monitors, since I could discover no reason why this exception should have been made.
A Lodge is an assemblage of Masons duly congregated, having the Holy Bible, Square, and Compasses, and a Charter or Warrant of Constitution authorizing them to work.
Every lawful assemblage of Masons, duly congregated for work, will be “a just and legally constituted Lodge.” It is just, that is, regular and orderly, when it contains the requisite number to form a quorum, and when the Bible, Square, and Compasses are present. It is legally constituted when it is acting under the authority of a Warrant of Constitution, which is an instrument written and printed on parchment or paper (but properly it should be on the former), emanating from the Grand Lodge in whose jurisdiction the Lodge is situated, and signed by the grand officers, which authorizes the persons therein named, and their successors, to meet as Masons and perform Masonic labor. As no assemblage of Masons is legal without such an instrument, it is not only the privilege, but the duty, of every Mason on his first visit to a strange Lodge, to demand a sight of its Warrant of Constitution; nor should any brother sit in a Lodge whose members are unwilling to exhibit the authority on which they act.
Our ancient brethren met on the highest hills and in the lowest valleys, the better to observe the approach of cowans and eavesdroppers, and to guard against surprise.
The reason assigned in the lecture for this assembling on high places, is the modern, but not the true one. The fact is, that mountains and other high places were almost always considered as holy, and peculiarly appropriate for religious purposes, and we have abundant evidence in Scripture that the Jews were accustomed to worship on the tops of the highest hills, as it was believed that sacrifices offered from these elevated places were most acceptable to the Deity. Hutchinson says that “the highest hills and the lowest valleys were, from the earliest times, esteemed sacred, and it was supposed that the Spirit of God was peculiarly diffusive in those places.”
SYMBOLIC EXTENT OF THE LODGE.
A Lodge is said, symbolically, to extend in length from east to west; in breadth, from north to south; in height, from the earth to the highest heavens; in depth, from the surface to the center. And a Lodge is said to be of these vast dimensions to denote the universality of Masonry, and to teach us that a Mason's charity should be equally as extensive.
There is a peculiar fitness in this theory, which is really only making the Masonic Lodge a symbol of the world. It must be remembered that, at the era of the Temple, the earth was supposed to have the form of a parallelogram, or “oblong square.” Such a figure inscribed upon a map of the world, and including only that part of it which was known in the days of Solomon, would present just such a square, embracing the Mediterranean Sea and the countries lying immediately on its northern, southern, and eastern borders. Beyond, far in the north, would be the Cimmerian deserts as a place of darkness, while the pillars of Hercules in the west, on each side of the Straits of Gades— now Gibraltar—might appropriately be referred to the two pillars that stood at the porch of the Temple. Thus the world itself would be the true Mason's Lodge, in which he was to live and labor. Again; the solid contents of the earth below, “from the surface to the center,” and the profound expanse above, “from the earth to the highest heavens,” would give to this parallelogram the outlines of a double cube, and meet thereby that definition which says, that “the form of the Lodge ought to be a double cube, as an expressive emblem of the powers of light and darkness in the creation.” [Oliver, George. Historical Landmarks of Freemasonry, vol. I. p. 135, n. 37.]
A Lodge has three principal supports, which are Wisdom, Strength, and Beauty, because it is necessary that there should he wisdom to contrive, strength to support, and beauty to adorn all great and important undertakings. Of these, the column of Wisdom is situated in the east part of the Lodge, and is represented by the W:. M:. because it is presumed that he has wisdom to devise labor for the craft, and to superintend them during the hours thereof; the column of Strength is situated in the west part of the Lodge, and is represented by the S:. W:. because it is his duty to strengthen and support the authority of the Master; and the column of Beauty is situated in the south part of the Lodge, and is represented by the J:. W:. because from his position in the S:. he is the first to observe the meridian sun, which is the beauty and glory of the day, to call the craft from labor to refreshment, to superintend them during the hours thereof, to see that none convert the purposes of refreshment into those of intemperance or excess, and to call them on again in due season, that the M:. W:. may have honor, and they pleasure and profit thereby.
The idea that the Lodge is a symbol of the world, is still carried out. It was the belief of the ancients that the heavens, or the roof of the world, was supported by pillars. By these pillars, some suppose that the mountains are alluded; but in reference to a passage in Job 26:11, where it is said, “The pillars of heaven tremble,” Noyes thinks that “it is more probable that heaven is represented as an immense edifice, supported on lofty columns, like a temple.” But on this passage Dr. Cutbush is still more explicit. He says: “The arch, in this instance, is allegorical not only of the arch of heaven, but of the higher degree of Masonry, commonly called the Holy Royal Arch. The pillars which support the arch are emblematical of wisdom and strength—the former denoting the wisdom of the Supreme Architect, and the latter the stability of the universe.” [Brewster, David. Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol. II. p. 301, see Arch Celestial.]
Its covering is no less than a clouded canopy or starry decked heaven, where all good Masons hope at last to arrive, by the aid of that theological ladder which Jacob, in his vision saw ascending from earth to heaven, the three principal rounds of which are denominated Faith, Hope, and Charity, and which admonish us to have faith in God, hope of immortality, and charity to all mankind.
The greatest of these is Charity; for our Faith may be lost in sight; Hope ends in fruition; but Charity extends beyond the grave, through the boundless realms of eternity.
The Lodge continues throughout this degree to be presented to the initiate as a symbol of the world, and hence its covering is figuratively supposed to be the “clouded canopy” on which the host of stars is represented. If the Lodge represent the world, then its covering must be represented by the blue vault of heaven.
The mystical ladder which is here referred to, is a symbol that was widely diffused among the religions of antiquity, where, as in Masonry, it was always supposed to consist of seven steps, because seven was a sacred number. In some of the Ancient Mysteries, the seven steps represented the seven planets, and then the sun was the topmost; in others they represented the seven metals, and then gold was the topmost; in the Brahminical mysteries they represented the seven worlds which constituted the Indian universe, and then the world of Truth was the highest. The seven steps of the Masonic ladder are Temperance, Fortitude, Prudence, Justice, Faith, Hope, and Charity; that is, the four cardinal and the three theological virtues. Now, as charity is love, and as the sun represents Divine Love, and as also the astronomical sign of the sun is gold, and as truth is the synonym of God, it is evident, that the topmost round in all these ladders, whether it be the sun, or gold, or truth, or charity, conveys exactly the same lesson of symbolism, namely, that the Mason, living and working in the world as his Lodge, must seek to raise himself out of it to that eminence which surmounts it, where alone he can find Divine Truth.
FURNITURE AND ORNAMENTS OF A LODGE.
The furniture of a Lodge consists of a Holy Bible, Square, and Compasses.
The Holy Bible is dedicated to God; the Square, to the Master; and the Compasses, to the craft.
The Bible is dedicated to God, because it is the inestimable gift of God to man; the Square, to the Master, because it is the proper Masonic emblem of his office; and the Compasses, to the craft, because, by a due attention to their use, they are taught to circumscribe their desires, and keep their passions within due bounds.
The ornaments of a Lodge are the Mosaic Pavement, the Indented Tessel, and the Blazing Star. The Mosaic pavement is a representation of the ground floor of King Solomon's Temple; and the indented tessel, of that beautiful tesselated border or skirting which surrounded it.
The Mosaic pavement is emblematical of human life, checkered with good and evil; the beautiful border which surrounds it is emblematical of those manifold blessings and comforts which surround us, and which we hope to obtain by a faithful reliance on Divine Providence, which is hieroglyphically represented by the blazing star in the center.
Mosaic Pavements, consisting of stones of various colors, so disposed as to represent different shapes or forms, were common in the temples of the ancients. Fellows says that they represented the variegated face of the earth in the places where the ancients formerly held their religious assemblies. The true derivation of the word is unknown, or at least unsettled.
The Indented Tessel is a border of stones, of various colors, placed around the pavement. Tessel, from the Latin tessela, means a little square stone, and to indent is to cut or notch a margin into inequalities resembling teeth. A tesselated border is, therefore, a notched border of variegated colors.
The Blazing Star is said by Webb to be “commemorative of the star which appeared to guide the wise men of the East to the place of our Savior's nativity.” This, which is one of the ancient interpretations of the symbol, being considered as too sectarian in its character, and unsuitable to the universal religion of Masonry, has been omitted since the meeting of Grand Lecturers at Baltimore, in 1842.
THREE SYMBOLIC LIGHTS.
A Lodge has three symbolic lights; one of these is in the East, one in the West, and one in the South. There is no light in the north, because King Solomon's Temple, of which every Lodge is a representation, was placed so far north of the ecliptic, that the sun and moon, at their meridian height, could dart no rays into the northern part thereof. The north we therefore masonically call a place of darkness.
The three lights, like the three principal officers and the three principal supports, refer undoubtedly to the three stations of the sun—its rising in the east, its meridian in the south, and its setting in the west—and thus the symbolism of the Lodge, as typical of the world, continues to be preserved.
The use of lights in all religious ceremonies is an ancient custom. There was a seven-branched candlestick in the tabernacle, and in the Temple “were the golden candlesticks, five on the right hand and and five on the left.” They were always typical of moral spiritual, or intellectual light.
MOVABLE AND IMMOVABLE JEWELS.
A Lodge has six jewels; three of these are immovable and three movable.
The immovable jewels are the Square, Level, and Plumb.
The square inculcates morality; the level, equality; and the plumb, rectitude of conduct.
They are called immovable jewels, because they are always to be found in the East, West, and South parts of the Lodge, being worn by the officers in those respective stations.
The movable jewels are the Rough Ashlar, the Perfect Ashlar, and the Trestle-Board. [Such is the division of the jewels in the Lodges of this country; but in English Lodges the reverse is the case; there the rough and perfect ashlars and the trestle-board are the immovable jewels, and the square, level, and plumb are the movable, because they descend from one set of officers to their successors.]
The rough ashlar is a stone as taken from the quarry in its rude and natural state.
The perfect ashlar is a stone made ready by the hands of the workmen, to be adjusted by the working tools of the fellow-craft. The trestle-board is for the master workman to draw his designs upon.
By the rough ashlar we are reminded of our rude and imperfect state by nature; by the perfect ashlar, that state of perfection at which we hope to arrive by a virtuous education, our own endeavors, and the blessing of God; and by the trestle-board we are also reminded that, as the operative workman erects his temporal building agreeably to the rules and designs laid down by the master on his trestle-board, so should we, both operative and speculative, endeavor to erect our spiritual building agreeably to the rules and designs laid down by the Supreme Architect of the Universe, in the great books of nature and revelation, which are our spiritual, moral, and masonic trestle-board.
To every Mason, whatever may be his peculiar religious creed, that revelation of the Deity which is recognized by his religion becomes his trestle-board. Thus, the trestle-board of the Jewish Mason is the Old Testament; of the Christian, the Old and the New; of the Mohammedan, the Koran. But as no operative mason can work without a trestle-board, where the designs and instructions of his master for his conduct in the building on which he is engaged may be delineated, so no speculative mason can labor truly and profitably in the great work of life without a trestle-board which may contain the delineation of the designs and will of his Eternal Master. And thus it is that, as the atheist acknowledges no such Master, and can therefore have no such trestle-board, he is not permitted to unite with us in our “moral, spiritual, and masonic” labor. And this is really the reason of the law which forbids the initiation of atheists.
A Lodge is situated due east and west, because when Moses crossed the Red Sea, being pursued by Pharaoh and his host, he erected on the other side, by divine command, a tabernacle, which he placed due east and west, to receive the first rays of the rising sun, and to commemorate that mighty east wind by which their miraculous deliverance was effected. This tabernacle was an exact pattern of King Solomon's Temple, of which every Lodge is a representation, and it is, or ought, therefore, to be placed due east and west.
[Dr. Oliver assigns the following reasons why the tabernacle is considered as the type of a Mason's Lodge; “It was an oblong square, and, with its courts and appendages, it represented the whole habitable globe. Such is also the extent of our Lodges. The former was supported by pillars, and the latter is also sustained by those of Wisdom, Strength, and Beauty. They were equally situated due east and west. The sacred roll of God's revealed will and law was deposited in the Ark of the Covenant; the same holy record is placed in a conspicuous part of our Lodges. The altar of incense was a double cube, and so is our pedestal and stone of foundation. The covering of the tabernacle was composed of three colors, as a representation of the celestial hemisphere; such, also, is the covering of a Mason's Lodge. The floor of the tabernacle was so holy, that the priests were forbidden to tread upon it without taking off their shoes; the floor of the Lodge is holy ground.” — Oliver, George. Dictionary of Symbolic Masonry. p. 254. see Oblong.]
ORIENTATION OF LODGES.
The orientation of Lodges, or their position due east and west, is derived from the universal custom of antiquity. “The heathen temples,” says Dudley, “were so constructed that their length was directed toward the east, and the entrance was by a portico at the western front, where the altar stood, so that the votaries approaching for the performance of religious rites, directed their faces toward the east, the quarter of sunrise.” The primitive reason of this custom undoubtedly is to be found in the early prevalence of sun-worship, and hence the spot where that luminary first made his appearance in the heavens was consecrated, in the minds of his worshipers, as a place entitled to peculiar reverence. Long after the reason had ceased, the custom continued to be observed, and Christian churches still are built, when circumstances will permit, with particular reference to an east-and-west position. Freemasonry, retaining in its symbolism the typical reference of the Lodge to the world, and constantly alluding to the sun in his apparent diurnal revolution, imperatively requires, when it can be done, that the Lodge should be situated due east and west, so that every ceremony shall remind the Mason of the progress of that luminary.
Our ancient brethren dedicated their Lodges to King Solomon, because he was our first Most Excellent Grand Master; but modern Masons dedicate theirs to St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist, who were two eminent patrons of Masonry; and since their time, there is represented, in every regular and well-governed Lodge, a certain point within a circle, embordered by two perpendicular parallel lines, representing St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist; and upon the top rests the Holy Scriptures. The point represents an individual brother; the circle is the boundary line, beyond which he is never to suffer his prejudices or passions to betray him. In going round this circle, we necessarily touch upon these two lines, as well as the Holy Scriptures; and while a Mason keeps himself circumscribed within these due bounds, it is impossible that he should materially err.
POINT WITHIN A CIRCLE.
The point within a circle is an interesting and important symbol in Freemasonry, but it has been so debased in the interpretation of it given in the modern lectures, that the sooner that interpretation is forgotten by the Masonic student, the better will it be. The symbol is really a beautiful but somewhat abstruse allusion to the old sun-worship, and introduces us for the first time to that modification of it known among the ancients as the worship of the Phallus.
The Phallus was an imitation of the male generative organ. It was represented usually by a column, which was surrounded by a circle at its base, intended for the eteis, or female generative organ. This union of the phallus and the eteis, which is well represented by the point within the circle, was intended by the ancients as a type of the prolific powers of nature, which they worshiped under the united form of the active or male principle, and the passive or female principle. Impressed with this idea of the union of these two principles, they made the older of their deities hermaphrodite, and supposed Jupiter, or the Supreme God, to have within himself both sexes, or, as one of their poets expresses it, “to have been created a male and an unpolluted virgin.”
Now, this hermaphrodism of the Supreme Divinity was again supposed to be represented by the sun, which was the male generative energy, and by nature or the universe, which was the female prolific principle. And this union was symbolized in different ways, but principally by the point within the circle, the point indicating the sun, and the circle the universe of nature, warmed into life by his prolific rays.
The two parallel lines, which in the modern lectures are said to represent St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist, really allude to particular periods in the sun's annual course. At two particular points in this course the sun is found on the zodaical signs Cancer and Capricorn, which are distinguished as the summer and winter solstice. When the sun is in these points, he has reached respectively his greatest northern and southern limit. These points, if we suppose the circle to represent the sun's annual course, will be indicated by the points where the parallel lines touch the circle. But the days when the sun reaches these points are the 21st of June and the 22nd of December, and this will account for their subsequent application to the two Saints John, whose anniversaries the Church has placed near those days.
So the true interpretation of the point within the circle is the same as that of the Master and Wardens of a Lodge. The reference to the symbolism of the world and the Lodge is preserved in both. The Master and Wardens are symbols of the sun—the Lodge, of the universe or the world; the point also is the symbol of the same sun, and the surrounding circle of the universe, while the two parallel lines really point, not to two saints, but to the two northern and southern limits of the sun's course.
THREE GREAT TENETS.
The three great tenets of a Mason's profession are Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth, which are thus described:
By the exercise of brotherly love, we are taught to regard the whole human species as one family; the high and low, the rich and poor; who, as created by one Almighty Parent, and inhabitants of the same planet, are to aid, support, and protect each other. On this principle, Masonry unites men of every country, sect, and opinion, and conciliates true friendship among those who might otherwise have remained at a perpetual distance.
To relieve the distressed, is a duty incumbent on all men, but particularly on Masons, who are linked together by an indissoluble chain of sincere affection. To soothe the unhappy, to sympathize with their misfortunes, to compassionate their miseries, and to restore peace to their troubled minds, is the great aim we have in view. On this basis we form our friendships and establish our connections.
Truth is a divine attribute, and the foundation of every virtue. To be good and true, is the first lesson we are taught in Masonry. On this theme we contemplate, and by its dictates endeavor to regulate our conduct; hence, while influenced by this principle, hypocrisy and deceit are unknown among us, sincerity and plain-dealing distinguish us, and the heart and tongue join in promoting each other's welfare, and rejoicing in each other's prosperity.
FOUR CARDINAL VIRTUES.
The four cardinal virtues are Temperance, Fortitude, Prudence, and Justice, and are thus explained:
Temperance is that due restraint upon our affections and passions which renders the body tame and governable, and frees the mind from the allurements of vice. This virtue should be the constant practice of every Mason; as he is thereby taught to avoid excess, or contracting any licentious or vicious habit, the indulgence of which might lead him to disclose some of those valuable secrets which he has promised to conceal and never reveal, and which would consequently subject him to the contempt and detestation of all good Masons.
Fortitude is that noble and steady purpose of the mind whereby we are enabled to undergo any pain, peril, or danger, when prudentially deemed expedient. This virtue is equally distant from rashness and cowardice; and, like the former, should be deeply impressed upon the mind of every Mason, as a safeguard or security against any illegal attack that may be made, by force or otherwise, to extort from him any of those valuable secrets with which he has been so solemnly intrusted, and which were emblematically represented upon his first admission into the Lodge.
Prudence teaches us to regulate our lives and actions agreeably to the dictates of reason, and is that habit by which we wisely judge and prudentially determine on all things relative to our present as well as to our future happiness. This virtue should be the peculiar characteristic of every Mason, not only for the government of his conduct while in the Lodge, but also when abroad in the world. It should be particularly attended to in all strange and mixed companies, never to let fall the least sign, token, or word whereby the secrets of Masonry might be unlawfully obtained.
Justice is that standard, or boundary of right, which enables us to render to every man his just due, without distinction. This virtue is not only consistent with Divine and human laws, but is the very cement and support of civil society; and as justice in a great measure constitutes the real good man, so should it be the invariable practice of every Mason never to deviate from the minutest principles thereof.
As an encouragement and example to the candidate, he is reminded that our ancient brethren served their masters with freedom, fervency, and zeal—which qualities are symbolically illustrated—and the lecture closes with an appropriate reflection on the certainty of death.
CHARGE AT THE INITIATION OF AN ENTERED APPRENTICE.
Brother: As you are now introduced into the first principles of Masonry, I congratulate you on being accepted into this ancient and honorable Order: ancient, as having subsisted from time immemorial; and honorable, as tending, in every particular, so to render all men who will be conformable to its precepts. No institution was ever raised on a better principle or more solid foundation; nor were ever more excellent rules and useful maxims laid down than are inculcated in the several Masonic lectures. The greatest and best of men, in all ages, have been encouragers and promoters of the art, and have never deemed it derogatory to their dignity to level themselves with the fraternity, extend their privileges, and patronize their assemblies. There are three great duties which, as a Mason, you are charged to inculcate—to God, your neighbor, and yourself. To God, in never mentioning his name but with that reverential awe which is due from a creature to his Creator; to implore his aid in all your laudable undertakings, and to esteem him as the chief good. To your neighbor, in acting upon the square, and doing unto him as you wish he should do unto you. And to yourself, in avoiding all irregularity and intemperance, which may impair your faculties, or debase the dignity of your profession. A zealous attachment to these duties will insure public and private esteem.
In the State, you are to be a quiet and peaceful subject, true to your government, and just to your country; you are not to countenance disloyalty or rebellion, but patiently submit to legal authority, and conform with cheerfulness to the government of the country in which you live. In your outward demeanor, be particularly careful to avoid censure or reproach.
Although your frequent appearance at our regular meetings is earnestly solicited, yet it is not meant that Masonry should interfere with your necessary vocations, for these are on no account to be neglected; neither are you to suffer your zeal for the Institution to lead you into argument with those who, through ignorance, may ridicule it.
At your leisure hours, that you may improve in Masonic knowledge, you are to converse with well informed brethren, who will be always as ready to give, as you will be ready to receive, instruction.
Finally, keep sacred and inviolable the mysteries of the Order, as these are to distinguish you from the rest of the community, and mark your consequence among Masons. If, in the circle of your acquaintance, you find a person desirous of being initiated into Masonry, be particularly attentive not to recommend him unless you are convinced he will conform to our rules; that the honor, glory, and reputation of the Institution may be firmly established, and the world at large convinced of its good effects.
[This to a very old charge. The substance of it was written in 1774 by Hutchinson, and published in his “Spirit of Masonry.” Preston considerably enlarged and improved it subsequently, and inserted it in his “Illustrations.” Webb afterward reduced it to its present abridged form, simply by omitting many of Preston's paragraphs.]
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