LECTURES ON THE ENTERED APPRENTICE, FELLOWCRAFT AND MASTER MASON DEGREES
by Keith F. Walker
from: South Dakota Lodge
of Masonic Research, Masonic Papers, Volume 4 – 2002, Pages 25 – 37.
The following are partial transcriptions of
lectures that appeared in Albert Mackey’s Masonic Ritualist and
have been compiled here.
Lecture on the First Degree
Lecture on the Second Degree
Lecture on the Third Degree
A Lecture on 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 this 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 his brethren of all natures, 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 to be forgotten. And, lastly, as
charity the chief corner stone of all the Masonic virtues, the beauty and
holiness of the 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.
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 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 veil which
conceals divine truth from his uninitiated sight. And here, as 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.”
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
Talmudic 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 garments, nor with shoes on his feet, nor with money in his
In the Ancient
Mysteries the aspirant was always kept for a certain period of time in a
condition of darkness. Hence darkness became a 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.
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. 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.
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.
By the symbolism
of the Shock of Entrance, the world is left behind. It is a symbol of
the disruption of the candidate from the ties of the world, and its introduction
into the life of Masonry. It is the symbol of the agonies of the first death
and the throes of the new birth.
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 a Prayer. A belief in God constitutes
the sole creed of a Mason – at least, the only creed that he is required to
The Rites of
Circumambulation is the name given to that observance in all the religious
ceremonies of antiquity, which consisted in a procession around the altar or
some 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 has a
reference to the motion of the heavenly bodies. Hence, in making this
procession around the altar, great care was taken to move in imitation of the
apparent course of the sun.
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.
Circumambulation Psalm 133 is read. The great teaching of this Psalm is
brotherly love, that virtue which is the most prominent tenet of the Masonic
order. It is felt that Psalm 133 is intended to represent the exultation of the
Priests and Levites returning from the captivity at Babylon and again united in
the service of God in the Sanctuary.
Fault has been
found with the Rite of Masonry because it perpetuates 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.
It is not
pretended, that because Masonry has adopted the temple at 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 representation 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.
Circumambulation and the three supposed gates are symbolic 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.
The duty of an
Entered Apprentice is embraced by the virtues of Silence and Secrecy.
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.
Light which sprung forth at the fiat (order) of the Grand Architect, which
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. 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 – which constitute the
chief design of all Masonic teachings.
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A Lecture on the Second
The symbolism of
the Second Degree essentially differs from that of the First. If
the First Degree was typically of the period of youth, the Second is
emblematic of the stage of manhood. Here new duties and increased
obligations to their performance press upon the individual. The lessons of
wisdom and virtue which he has received in youth, are now to produce their
active fruits; the talent which was lent, is now to be returned with usury
(interest). Hence, as the Fellow Craft’s Degree is intended to represent
this thinking and working period of life, it necessarily assumes a more
important position in the Masonic scale, and is invested with a more dignified
ritual, and a more extensive series of instructions. Here it is that the
preparatory lessons which were obtained in the First Degree are to be enlarged
Man was not
intended for physical labor only. There are more exalted tasks to which the
possession of mind has called him. Endowed by his Creator with the possession
of reason and intellect, it is his duty, and should be his pleasure, to direct
the vigor and energy of his manhood to the cultivation of his reasoning
faculties and the improvement of his intellectual powers.
Hence, the Fellow
Craft’s Degree, as a type of this state of manhood, is particularly devoted to
science. The mind of the recipient is fixed, by the nature of its
ritual, upon the wonders of nature and art. The attention is particularly
directed to the Liberal Arts and Sciences, with whose principles the
candidate is charged to become familiar, that he may be enabled to occupy with
honor to himself, and with profit to his fellow creatures, his allotted place in
the great structure of human society.
Masonry, in its
character as an Operative art, is familiar to every one. As such, it is
engaged in the application of the rules of architecture to the construction of
public edifices. It, of course, abounds in the use of technical terms, and
makes use of implements and materials which are unique to itself. It is the
popular theory, that the Operative Masons were the founders of the system of
Speculative Masonry, in which they applied the language and ideas of their
art of building to a spiritual and religious sense. Hence, Speculative Masonry
is nothing more or less, in this aspect, than a symbolization of Operative
The theory is,
that at first Operative Masonry existed simply as an art of building. Then the
Operative Masons, with the assistance of learned and pious men, invented the
speculative science, or Freemasonry, and then each became an integral part of
one undivided system. However, there was never a time when every Operative
Mason, without exception, was acquainted with or initiated into the speculative
science. Even now there are thousands of skilled stone-masons who know nothing
of the symbolic meaning of the implements they employ; but Operative Masonry was
at first, and is even now, the skeleton upon which was strung the nerves and
muscles of the living system of Free and Speculative Masonry.
Masonry, now known as Freemasonry, is, therefore, the scientific application and
the religious consecration of the rules and principles, the technical language
and the implements and the materials, of Operative Masonry to the worship of God
as the Great Architect of the Universe, and to the purification of the
heart and the inculcation of the dogmas of a religious philosophy. And, as the
original union of the operative and speculative branches of the system is
traditionally supposed to have taken place at the building of the Temple
at Jerusalem by King Solomon, more attention is paid in the symbolism of
that edifice than to any other.
legend of the Winding Stairs forms an important tradition of ancient
Craft Masonry, the only allusion to it in scripture is to be found in a single
verse in the sixth chapter of the First Book of Kings, and is, in these words” “The
door for the middle chamber was in the right side of the house; and they went up
with winding stairs into the middle chamber, and out of the middle into the
third.” Out of this slender material has been constructed an allegory,
which, if properly considered in its symbolic relations, will be found to be of
surpassing beauty. But it is only as a symbol that we can regard this whole
tradition, for the historical facts and the legend, as it is rehearsed in the
Second Degree of Masonry, is anything more than a magnificent philosophical
investigation of the true meaning of every Masonic symbol and allegory, we must
be governed by the single principle that the whole design of Freemasonry as a
speculative science is the investigation of divine truth. To this great object
everything is subsidiary. The Mason is, from the moment of his initiation as an
Entered Apprentice, to the time at which he receives the full fruition of
Masonic light, an investigator – a laborer in the quarry and the temple –
whose reward is to be truth, and all the ceremonies and traditions of the order
tend to this ultimate design.
Hence, there is
in Speculative Masonry always a progress, symbolized by its unique ceremonies of
initiation. There is an advancement from a lower to a higher state – from
darkness to light - from death to life – from error to truth. The candidate is
always ascending; he is never stationary; never goes back; but each step he
takes brings him to some new mental illumination – to the knowledge of some more
elevated doctrine. The teaching of the Divine Master is, in respect to this
continual progress, the teaching of Masonry – “No man having put his hand to
the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of heaven -” and similar
to this is the precept of Pythagoras: “When traveling, turn not back, for if
you do, the furies will accompany you.”
having entered within the Porch of the Temple, has begun his Masonic life. But
the First Degree in Masonry, like the lesser mysteries of the ancient systems of
initiation, is only a preparation and purification for something higher. The
Entered Apprentice is the child of Masonry. The lessons which he receives are
simply intended to cleanse the heart and prepare the recipient for that mental
illumination which is to be given in the succeeding Degrees.
As a Fellow
Craft, he has advanced another step, and as the Degree is emblematic of youth,
so it is here that the intellectual education of the candidate begins. And
therefore, here, at the very spot which separates the Porch from the Sanctuary,
where childhood ends and manhood begins, he finds stretching out before him a
Winding Stair which invites him, as it were, to ascend, and which, as the symbol
of discipline and instruction, teaches him that here must commence his Masonic
Stairs begin after the candidate has passed within the Porch and between the
Pillars of Strength and Establishment, as a significant symbol to teach him
that as soon as he had passed beyond the years of irrational childhood, and
commenced his entrance into manly life, the laborious task of self-improvement
is the first duty that is placed before him.
then, in the Second Degree of Masonry, represents a man starting forth on the
journey of life, with the great task before him of self-improvement. For the
faithful performance of this task, a reward is promised, which reward consists
in the development of all his intellectual faculties, the moral and spiritual
elevation of his character, and the acquisition of truth and knowledge. Now,
the attainment of this moral and intellectual condition supposes an elevation of
character, an ascent from a lower to a higher life, and a passage of toil and
difficulty, through rudimentary instruction, to the full fruition of Wisdom.
This is therefore
beautiful symbolized by the Winding Stairs, at whose foot the aspirant stands
ready to climb the toilsome step, while at its top is placed “that hieroglyphic
light” as the emblem of Divine Truth. The candidate, easer for the
reward of truth is set before him, begins at once the toilsome ascent. At each
division he pauses to gather instruction from the symbolism which these
divisions present to his attention.
At the first
pause, which he makes, he is instructed in the organization of the
Order. The reference to the organization of Masonic institution is intended to
remind the aspirant of the union of men in society and the development of the
social state out of the state of nature. He is thus reminded of the blessings
which arise from civilization, and the fruits of virtue and knowledge which are
derived from that condition.
candidate is invited to contemplate another series of instructions. The
Human Senses, as the appropriate channels through which we receive all our
ideas of perception, and which, therefore, constitute the most important sources
of our knowledge, are here referred to as a symbol of intellectual cultivation.
as the most important of the arts which conduce to the comfort of mankind, is
also alluded to here, not simply because it is so closely connected with the
operative institution of Masonry, but also as the type of all other useful
arts. In his second pause, the aspirant is therefore reminded of the necessity
of cultivating practical knowledge.
In his third
pause, he arrives at that point in which the whole circle of human science is to
be explained. Symbols are in themselves arbitrary and of conventional
significance. Masonry is an institution of the olden time; and this selection
of the Liberal Arts and Sciences as a symbol of the completion of human
learning is one of the most pregnant evidences that we have of its antiquity.
In the seventh
century, and for a long time afterward, the circle of instruction to which all
the learning of the most eminent schools and the most distinguished philosophers
was confined to the liberal arts and sciences, and consisted of two branches,
the Trivium and the Quadrivium. The Trivium included grammar,
rhetoric, and logic; and the Quadrivium comprehended arithmetic,
geometry, music, and astronomy.
The Seven Heads
were supposed to include universal knowledge. He who was master of these was
thought to have no need of a preceptor to explain any books or to solve any
questions which lay within the compass of human reason; the knowledge of the
Trivium having furnished him with the key to all language, and that of the
Quadrivium having opened to him the secret laws of nature.
having reached this point, is now supposed to have accomplished the task upon
which he has entered – he has reached the last step, and is now ready to receive
the full fruition of human learning.
So far, we are
able to comprehend the true symbolism of the Winding Stairs. They represent the
progress of an inquiring mind with the toils and labors of intellectual
cultivation and study, and the preparatory acquisition of all human science, as
a preliminary step to the attainment of divine truth, which it must be
remembered is always symbolized in Masonry by the Word.
But we are not
yet done. It will be remembered that a reward was promised for all this
toilsome ascent of the Winding Stairs. Now, what are the wages of a
Speculative Mason? Not money, nor wine, nor oil. All these are but symbols.
His wages are truth, ot that approximation to it which will be most
appropriate to the Degree into which he has been initiated.
It is one of the
most beautiful, but at the same time most abstruse (mysterious), doctrines of
the science of Masonic symbolism, that the Mason is ever to be in search of
truth, but is never to find it. And this is intended to teach the humiliating
lesson, that the knowledge of the nature of God and man’s relation to Him, which
knowledge constitutes Divine Truth, can never be acquired in this life. It is
only when the portals of the grave open to us, and give us entrance into a more
perfect life, that this knowledge is to be attained.
Chamber is, therefore, symbolic of life, where only the symbol of the Word
can be given, where only the truth is to be reached by approximation, and yet
where we are to learn that that truth will consist in perfect knowledge of the
Grand Architect of the Universe. This is the reward of the inquiring
Mason; in this consists the Wages of a Fellow Craft: he is directed to
the truth, but must travel farther and ascend still higher to attain it.
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A Lecture on the Third
First Degree is intended as a representation of youth, and the Second of
manhood, the Third, or Master Mason, is emblematic of old age,
with its trials, its sufferings and its final termination in death. The
time of toiling is over, the opportunity to learn has passed away; the spiritual
temple that we all have been striving to erect in our hearts is now nearly
completed, and the wearied workman awaits only the word of the Grand Master of
the Universe, to call him from the labors of earth to the eternal refreshments
of Heaven. Hence, this is by far the most solemn and impressive of the degrees
of Masonry; and it has, in consequence of the profound truths which it
inculcates, been distinguished by the craft as the “sublime” Degree.
As an Entered
Apprentice, the Mason was taught those elementary instructions which were to fit
him for further advancement in his profession, just as the youth is supplied
with that rudimentary education which is to prepare him for entering on the
active duties of life. As a Fellow Craft, the Mason is directed to continue his
investigation in the science of the institution, and to labor diligently in the
tasks it prescribes, just as the man is required to enlarge his mind by the
acquisition of new ideas, and to extend his usefulness to his fellow creatures.
But, as a Mason, the Mason is taught the last, most important, and the most
necessary of truths, that having been faithful to all his trusts. He is at last
to die, and to receive the rewards of his fidelity.
It was the single
object of all the ancient rites and mysteries practiced in the very bosom of
pagan darkness, shinning as a solitary beacon in all that surrounding gloom, and
cheering the philosopher in his wearing pilgrimage of life, to teach the
immortality of the soul. This is still the great design of the Third Degree
of Masonry. This is the scope and aim of its ritual.
The Master Mason
represents man, when young, manhood, old age, and life itself have passed away
as fleeting shadows, yet raised from the grave of iniquity, and quickened into
another and a better existence. By its legend and all its ritual, it is implied
that we have been redeemed from death of sin and the sepulcher of pollution.
design of the Third Lecture is to symbolize the great doctrines of the
resurrection of the body and the immortality of the soul. The
lecture is divided into three sections.
are particularly consecrated to this degree, because within their extreme
points, when properly extended, are symbolically said to be enclosed the
principal tenets of our profession, and hence the moral application of the
compasses, in the Third Degree, is to those precious Jewels of a Master
Mason: friendship, morality, and brotherly love.
section of this Degree recites the legend on which the Degree is founded. The
idea of the legend was undoubtedly borrowed from the Ancient Mysteries, where
the lesson was the same as that now conveyed here.
Again is the
lesson taught here, as it was in the First Degree, that a Mason should enter
upon no great and important labor without first invoking the blessing of Deity.
But the symbolism here is still further extended, and the candidate,
representing one who is about to enter upon the pilgrimage of life, and all its
dangers and temptations, first is supposed to lay down upon his trestle board
the designs for labor, of honest ambition, or of virtuous pleasure upon which he
is about to enter, and then to invoke the protection and blessing of the Grand
Architect of the Universe upon his future career. For the temple builder,
Hiram Abiff, is, in the Masonic system, the symbol of humanity
developed here and in the life to come; and as the temple is the visible symbol
of the world, its architect becomes the mythical symbol of man, the dweller and
worker in the world, and his progress by the gates is the allegory of man’s
pilgrimage through youth, manhood and old age, to the final triumph death and
12 was celebrated as a mystical number in the ancient systems of
sun-worship, of which it has already been said that Masonry is a philosophical
development. The number there referred to the twelve signs of the Zodiac,
and in those Masonic rites in which Hiram is made the symbol of the sun, the
twelve Fellow Craft refer to the twelve signs in which alone the sun is to be
sought for. But in the York Rite this symbolism is lost, because Hiram there
represents man, and not the sun. but the ancient number has still been
Portal says the
number twelve was a perfect and complete number. The number 13
indicated the commencement of a new course of life, and thence it became the
emblem of death. The number twelve has always been considered as a sacred
which the Hebrews called Japho, and is now known as Jaffa, was and is a sea port
town and harbor on the coast of Palestine, about forty miles in “a westerly
direction” from Jerusalem. At the same time of the building of the temple it
was the only sea-port possessed by the Israelites, and was therefore the point
through which all passage out of or into the country was affected.
The small hill
near Mount Moriah
can be clearly identified by the most convincing analogies as being no other
than Mount Calvary.
Thus Mount Calvary was a small hill; it was situated in a westerly direction
from the Temple, and near Mount Moriah; it was on the direct road from Jerusalem
to Joppa, and is thus the very spot where a weary brother, traveling on that
road, would find it convenient to sit down and refresh himself; it was outside
of the gate of the Temple; and lastly, there were several caves, or clefts
in the rocks, in the neighborhood, one of which, it will be
remembered, was, subsequently used as the sepulcher of our Lord.
of acacia is an important symbol in Freemasonry. The plant is
known to botanists as the “acacia vera” of Tournefort and the “mimosa
nilotica” of Linnaeus. It is an evergreen that grows in great abundance in
the vicinity of Jerusalem. It’s always esteemed as a sacred tree by the
Israelites. The tabernacle and the furniture, with the Ark of the Covenant,
were made out of it, and it was consecrated from among the other trees of the
forest, to sacred purposes.
As a symbol, it
received, among the ancients, three interpretations:
- In consequence of its incorruptible and evergreen nature, it was readily
adapted as a symbol of the immortality of the soul.
- In allusion to the derivation of its name, among Greeks, from a word
which signifies “freedom from sin,” it was also adopted as a symbol of
- Like all the other sacred plants, such as the myrtle, the mistletoe, and
the lotus, which were used in the ancient mysteries, it became a symbol of
The three interpretations combined teach us, by the use of this one symbol, that
in the initiation of life and earth, of which the initiation in the third degree
is simply emblematic, innocence must for a time lie in the grave – at length,
however, to be called by the Grand Master of all things to immortality.
There is a Masonic tradition, that the Jewel of an
Ancient Grand Master – and the one therefore always worn by
Hiram – was the Square and Compasses, with the letter “G” between. The
letter “G” is merely a modern substitution for the Hebrew letter “yod,”
which was the initial of Jehovah, the Tetragrammaton, and therefore constantly
used as a symbol of Deity.
The Five-Pointed Star has been adopted, in very recent times,
as a Masonic Symbol. Differing, as it does, entirely from the Blazing Star,
which in the First Degree refers to Divine Providence, it is consecrated, in the
Third Degree, as a symbol of the Five Points of
Among the Jews, as, indeed, among all other civilized nations, it was
considered not only an act to decency and humanity, but a religious obligation,
to bury and pay honors to the dead. The bier was followed by mourners, who
poured out the anguish of their hearts in lamentable wails, and who rehearsed
the virtues of the departed, and expressed the sorrow of the survivors.
The Mosaic Law which related to defilement by dead bodies, rendered it
necessary that none should be buried near sacred places, nor even within the
limits of cities, except in the case of kings and very distinguished men. The
strictness of the religious code against pollution would however, forbid that
even these should be interred in the neighborhood of a temple or sanctuary.
As far as the era of Abraham, sepulchral monuments are mentioned. The
ancient Arabians erected a heap of stones over the dead; but as among the
Hebrews such a heap was an indication that the body beneath had been stoned to
death, the latter nation, therefore, confined their monuments to a single stone,
which it was usual carefully to hew and to ornament with inscriptions.
Although among the early Jews the burning of the body was esteemed disgraceful,
the sentiment of the people was subsequently changed, and to burn the body with
aromatic spices, and deposit the ashes in an urn, was considered, in the
days of King Solomon, as a distinguished manor.
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