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by Byron E. Hams PM


Now my newly made Brothers you are placed in the north-east corner of the Lodge and in this position you become representative of a spiritual corner-stone. And hence, to thoroughly comprehend the true meaning of this placement, it is essential that we should investigate the symbolism of operative and speculative masonry.

The difference between operative and speculative Masonry is simply this-that while the former was engaged in the construction of a meterial temple, formed, it is true, of the most magnificent materials which the quarries of Palestine, the mountains of Lebanon, and the golden shores of Ophir could contribute, the latter occupies itself in the erection of a spiritual house,-a house not made with hands,-in which, for stones, cedar, gold, and precious stones, are substituted with the virtues of the heart, the pure emotions of the soul, the warm affections gushing forth from the hidden fountains of the spirit, so that the very presence of Jehovah, our Father and our God, shall be enshrined within us as his Shekinah was in the Holy of Holies of the material temple at Jerusalem.

The Speculative Mason, then, if he rightly comprehends the scope and design of his profession, is occupied, from his very first admission into the Order until the close of his labors and his life,-and the true Mason's labors ends only with his life,-in the construction, the adornment, and the completion of this Spiritual Temple of his body. He lays its foundation in a firm belief and an unshaken confidence in the wisdom, power, and goodness of God. This is his first step. Unless his trust is in God, and in him only, he can advance no further than the threshold of initiation. And then he prepares his materials swith the Gauge and Gavel of Truth, raises the walls by the Plumbline of Rectitude, Squares his work with the Square of Virtue, connects the whole with the Cement of Brotherly Love, and thus skillfully erects the living edice of thoughts, and words, and deeds, in accordance with the designs laid down by the Master Architect of the Universe in the great Book of Revelation.

As the aspirant for Masonic Light on your very first entrance within our sacred porch, you prepare yourself for this consecrated labor of erecting within your own bosom a fit dwelling-place for the Divine Spirit, and thus commence the noble work by becoming yourself the Corner-Stone on which this Spiritual Edifice is to be erected.

In Masonry, the north has ever been esteemed the place of darkness; and in obedience to this principle, no symbolic light is allowed to illuminate the northern part of the Lodge. The east in Masonry is symbolic of Masonic Light or universal knowledge.

You are in the north-east corner of the Lodge, because it is symbolic of your relation to the Order and to the World. From the profance world you have just emerged. Some of its imperfections are still upon you; some of its darkness is still about you; as yet you belong inpart to the north. But you are striving for light and truth; the pathway upon which you entered is directed towards the East. Your allegiance, if I may use the word, is divided. You are not altogether in darkness, nor altogether in light. If you were wholly in darkness, the north would be the place to put you. If you were wholly in light-a Master Mason,-the east would have received you. But you are neither; you are an Entered Apprentice, with some of the ignorance of the world cleaving to you, and some of the light of the Order beaming upon you. One side of you faces the north, and the other side faces the east. You are neither wholly in one part nor wholly in the other part. As an Entered Apprentice you are not fully developed, you are incomplete and imperfect, and therefore rightly placed in the north-east corner of the Lodge, the joining point of darkness and light.

The Corner-Stone, as the foundation on which the entire building is supposed to rest, is, of course, the most important stone in the whole edifice. You, my Brothers as Entered Apprentices are the most important Brothers here, for you are the Master Masons of tomorrow. We, the Craft are charged with giving you all our knowledge of Masonry that you are qualified to receive. And I stress the word, QUALIFIED, for if you never become qualified the teachings of Masonry will die with us. You are charged with, first becoming qualified to receive this knowledge, second with receiving this knowledge, and third and most important seeing that only those duly qualified receive it from you. In this manner the teaching of Masonry have been preserved over the ages. As the Corner-Stone of Masonry you are the link between the ones of us that have the knowledge and the ones that will come to Masonry in the future to find the knowledge. This is why you are placed in the north-east corner of the Lodge as the Corner-Stone of Masonry.

My, Brothers, I have explained to you on three different levels why you are in the north-east corner; Mentally, Physically, and Spiritually. Masonry is a beautiful system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols. We will give you the allegory and the symbols, but only of your own free will and accord through your own desire will you be able to remove the veils.

Brethren lease take due notice and govern yourselves accordingly. Look well to the East.


The Working Tools of an Entered Apprentice Mason are the Twenty-Four-Inch Gauge and Common Gavel. We will cover several explanations:

The Twenty-Four-Inch Gauge is an instrument used by Operative Masons to measure and lay out their wosrk; but we, as Entered Apprentice Masons, are taught to use it for the more noble and glorious purpose of dividing our time. It being divided into twenty-four equal parts, is emblematical of the twenty-four hours of the day, which we are taught to divide into three equal parts, whereby are found eight hours for the service of God and a distressed Worthy Brother, (and I stress the Importance of the word Worthy) eight hours for our usual vocations, and eight hours for refreshment and sleep.

There is no time to be wasted. There is no time to be idle. There is no time for waiting.

The implication is plain; the Entered Apprentice should be always ready to use his tools. He should know that Freemasonry is not only for the Lodge room but for life. Not to take the Twenty-Four-Inch Gauge into the profane world and by its divisions number the hours for the working of a constructive purpose is to miss the practical application of Masonic Labor and Masonic Charity.

To all men, time is all important. A wasted minute can't be retrieved. A minute is precious. Time must be used productively, or nothing can be accomplished. The man who wastes his own time or that of another squanders away something he can't replace. You will note, too, that two-thirds of a Freemason's time is to be spent in service and work.

The Common Gavel is an instrument used by Operative Masons to break off the corners of rough stones, the better to fit them for the Builder's use; but we, as Entered Apprentice Masons, are taught to use it for the more noble and glorious purpose of divesting our Hearts and Consciences of all vices and superfuluities of Life, thereby fitting our minds, as living stones, for that spiritual building-that house not made with hands-eternal in the heavens.

In the Great Light we read: "The Kindom of Heaven is within You." We are also there taught that man is made in the image of God. The perfection is already within. All that is required is to remove the roughness and excrescences, to show forth the perfect man and Mason within. Thus the Gavel becomes also the symbol of personal power.

It's a powerful instrument. When used for power alone it can be destructive. But power that is channeled toward good purposes will result in constructive achievement. The latter is the manner in which you, as a Mason, should use the power that God gives you.


The Entered Apprentice Mason should serve his Master with freedom, fervency, and zeal, which are represented by Chalk, Charcoal, and Clay.

There is nothing freer and Chalk, the slightest touch of which leaves a trace; there is nothing more fervent than Charcoal, for to it, when properly ignited, the most obdurate metals will yield; there is nothing more zealous than Clay, our mother earth, for it alone of all the elements has never proved unfriendly to man. Bodies of water deluge him with rain, oppress him with hail and drown him with inundation; the air rushes in storms and prepares the tempest; and fire lights up the volcano; but the earth, ever kind and indulgent, is found subservient to his wishes. Though constantly harassed, more to furnish the luxuries than the necessaries of life, she never refuses her accustomed yield, spreading his pathway with flowers and his table with plenty. Though she produces poison, still she supplies the antidote, and returns with interest every good committed to her care; and when at last we are called upon to pass through the "dark valley of the shadow of death" she once more receives us, and piously covers our remains within her bosom, thus admonishing us that as from it we came, so to it we must shortly return.

The Entered Apprentice should serve his apprenticeship with work and study, of his own free will and accord. He should do so with fervency, eager in his desire to do good work. His zeal if he has any, will help him prove he wants to become a "Living Stone" in the temple of Freemasonry.

In the early days of Speculative Masonry the symbols of the Craft were drawn on the floor of the building in which the Lodge was meeting: Chalk or Charcoal were the instruments used. The candidate had these symbols painted out to him as he progressed through the degree. When the Lodge was over, the tyler or candidate erased these "secret" symbols with a mop and a bucket of water. But when the Lodge met on "high hills" or "low vallies" earth became the carpet for the drawings; a hoe or rake the "eraser".

It is obvious that once upon a time, Chalk and Charcoal were necessary to "draw the Lodge". When floor cloths, and later wall charts, were used, an explanation became necessary for these three items. So, they were given the spiritual symbolism of Freedom, Fervency, and Zeal.

By practicing these three, you will become ready to receive further light in Masonry.


The covering of a Lodge is no less than the clouded canopy, or starry-decked heaven, where all good Masons hope at last to arrive by aid of that ladder which Jacob in his vision saw extended from eath to heaven, the principal rounds of which are denominated Faith, Hope, and Charity, which admonish us to have Faith in God, Hope in immortality, and Charity to all Mankind. The Greatest of these is Charity; for our faith may be lost in sight, Hope ends in fruition, but Charity extends beyond the grave, through the boundless realms of eternity.

But Masonic Charity is in reality love. While it includes gifts of money, it is much more than that. More importantly, it is the giving of one's self. It's sympathy to the unfortunate and suffering; the tear for the widow; congratulations for the fortunate. Masonic Charity symbolizes the Heart of man.

Faith is the foundation of justice, the bound of amity, and the chief support of society. We live by Faith; we walk by Faith; by Faith we have a continual hope in the acknowledgment of a Supreme Being; by Faith we are justified, accepted, and finally saved.

Hope is the anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and enters into that within the veil: Let a firm reliance on the Almighty's faithfulness animate our endeavors, and teach us to fix our Hopes within the limits of His promises.

Charity is the brightest gem that can adorn our Masonic profession. Happy is the man who has sowed in his beast the seeds of benevolence; the produce thereof is love and peace. The objects or true Charity among Masons are merit and virtue in distress; persons who are incapable of extricating themselves from misfortunes in their journey through life; industrious men who, from unavoidabe accidents, have fallen into ruin; widows left destitute by lack of husband's support; orphans in tender years, needing a father's care; and the aged, whose strength is exhausted, and who are thereby rendered unable to produce for themselves that substance necessary to nourish their declining years. This is Charity-the keystone of our mystic institution.

Charity is now interpreted to mean "love". If we use "love" in place of "Charity" it brings the meaning of the Ritual to life. Love is external; Charity may end with the giving of alms.

The ladder of Jacob has other rounds. Without them the three principal ones would be of little use in reaching Heaven. Among them are Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth, the tenets of Freemasonry. To these should be added Temperance, Fortitude, Prudence, and Justice, the cardinal virtues of the Fraternity. Taken all together they symbolize perfection, something every Mason should strive to reach.

The tenets, whether they are called Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth, or, as they are in some Jurisdictions: Friendship, Morality, and Brotherly Love, they are important. All can be termed "Cardinal Virtues". Cardinal comes from the latin "cardinalis", meaning "essential". The tenets are certainly essential to Freemasonry.

Of the four named Cardinal Virtues, Fortitude is not mentioned as such in the Bible, but Courage is. And Courage is another word for Fortitude, we can safely claim that Fortitude symbolizes Courage. Fortitude, as used by Masons, doesn't refere to physical courage only. If it did, it would put this virtue on a level with limited intelligence. It refers to Moral Courage; the strength and ability to make a decision and stick to it regardless of the consequences. To maintain high principles, even if they may be unpopular for the moment. To practice out of the Lodge what you have learned within. Fortitude is that noble and steady purpose of the mind whereby we are enabled to undergo any pain, peril, or danger, when prudently deemed expedient. This virtue is equally distant from rashness and cowardice, and should be deeply impressed upon your mind as a safeguard or security against any attempt that may be made, by force or otherwise, to extort from you any of those valuable secrets with which you have been so solemnly intrusted, and which was emblematically represented upon your first admission into the Lodge.

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. By practicing this virtue all Masons are required to place a restraint upon their passions and affections. They are changed to keep their minds free from the allurements of vice. Temperance, not merely in strong drink, but in all things, must be their aim. This virtue should be your constant practice, as you are thereby taught to avoid excess or contracting any licentious or vicious habits, the indulgence of which might lead you to disclose some of those valuable secrets which you have promised to conceal and never reveal, and which would consequently subject you to the contempt and detestation of all good Masons.

Prudence is a symbol of wisdom. Anciently, it was wisdom that was a Cardinal Virtue. Changing it to Prudence doesn,t change its nature. You will find that Freemasonry teaches the necessity of acquiring wisdom. Wisdom of Mind, Heart, and Soul. Wisdom comes from thinking, not just from education. It is something that brings man closer to his creator. with Wisdom comes Knowledge, Love, and Truth. Prudence teaches us to regulate our lives and actions agreeably to the dictates of reason, and is that habit by which we wisely judge and prudently determine on all things relative to our present ass well as to our future happiness. This Virtue should be your peculiar characteristic, not only for the government of your conduct while in the Lodge, but also when abroad in the world. You should be particularly cautious in all strange or mixed companies never to let fall the least sign, token, or word whereby the secrets of Freemasonry might be 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 it is the very cement and support of civil society; and as Justice in a great measure constitutes the really good man, so should it be your invariable practice never to deviate from the minutest principles thereof. Justice, as it is practiced Masonically, symbolizes Equality. Justice is usually pictured as a blindfolded woman holding scales and a sword. But this is far removed from what Masonic Justice should be. Man should govern his own actions, openly and not blindfolded. His conduct toward others should not be aggressive. He should do what he does because he really wants to, not because he is forced to. The Justice of a Freemason should be unselfish and self-sacrificing.


The Holy Bible is alway referred to as "The Great Light" or "The Great Light in Masonry", in this Country which is predominantly Christian. The practice may be and often is different in other Lands. What is vital and unchangeable, a Landmark of the Order is that a volume of the Sacred Law be open upon the Masonic Altar whenever the Lodge is open. A Lodge wholly Jewish may prefer to use only the Old Testament; in Turkey and Persia the Koran would be used as the volume of the Sacred Law of the Mohammedan; Brahmins would use the Vedas. In the Far East where Masonic Lodges have members of many Races and Creeds it is customary to have several Holy Books upon the Alter that the initiate may choose that which is to him the most sacred.

The Holy Bible, our Great Light in Masonry, is opened upon our Altars. Upon it lie the other great lights-the Square and the Compass. Without all three no Masonic Lodge can exist. Much less open or work. Together with the warrent from the Grand Lodge they are indispensable.

The Bible on the Altar is more than the Rule and Guide of our Faith. It is one of the Greatest of Freemasonry's symbols. For the Bible is here a symbol of all Holy Books of all Faiths. It is the Masonic way of setting forth that simplest and most profound of truths which Masonry has made so peculiarly her own; that there is a way that men "of all creeds and of every Race" may travel happily together, be their difference of Religious Faith what they may be. In his private devotions a man may petition God or Jehovah, Allah or Budda, Mohammed or Jesus; he may call upon the God of Israel or the Great First Cause. In the Masonic Lodge he hears humble petition to the Great Architect of the Universe, finding his own deity under that name.

A hundred paths may wind upward a mountain; at the top they meet. Freemasonry opens the Great Light upon her Alter not as one Book of one Faith, but as all Books of all Fathis, the Book of the Will of the Great Architect, read in what language, what form, what shape we will. It is as all-inclusive as the symbols which lie upon it. The Square is not for any one Lodge, any one Nation, any one Religion-it is for all Masons, everywhere, to all of whom it speaks the same tongue. The Compasses circumscribe the desires of Masons wheresoever dispersed; the secret of the Square, held between the points of the Compasses is universal.

Countless references in our Ritual are taken from the Old Testament. Almost every name in a Masonic Lodge is from the Scriptures. In the Great Light are found those simple teachings of the Universality of Brotherhood, the Love of God for His Children, the Hope of Immortality, which are the very warp and woof of Freemasonry. Let it be emphasized; these are the teaching of Freemasonry in every tongue, in every land, for those of every Faith. Freemasonry is no more a Christian Organization than it is Jewish, or Mohammedan, or Brahmin. Its use of the collection of Sacred Writings of the Jews (Old Testament) and the Gospels of the New Testament as the Great Light must not confuse you so that you read into Freemasonry a sectarian Character which is Not There.

This is so well misunderstood that it needs emphasis, to give you specific facts as well as assertion: The Bible is First Mentioned as a Great Light in Masonry About 1760, Whereas the First of the old charges (one of the foundation stones on which rest the laws of Freemasonry, first published in 1723, but presumably adopted by the Mother Grand Lodge at its formation in 1717) reads in part as follows:

A Mason is obligated by his tenure to obey the moral law; and if he rightly understands the art, he will never be a stupid atheist, nor an irreligious libertine.  But thought in ancient time masons were charge in every country to be of the religion of that country or nation, whatever it was, yet it's now thought more expedient only to oblige them to that religion n which all men agree, leaving their particular opinions to themselves; that is, to be good men and true, or men of honor and honesty, by whatever denominations or persuasions they may be distinguished; whereby becomes the center of union and the means of conciliating true friendship among persons that must have remained at a perpetual distance.

Perhaps never before has so short a paragraph had so profound an effect, setting forth the non-sectarian, non-doctrinal character of Freemasonry, making Religion, not a certain Religion, the important matter in the Ancient Craft.

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Last modified: March 22, 2014