Masonic Dictionary


The Latin accipere, receive, was from ad, meaning “to,” and capere, meaning “take,” therefore to take, to receive. The passive apprenticeship and initiation, but after the participle of this was acceptus. In Operative Masonry members were admitted through course of time, and when the Craft had begun to decay, gentlemen who had no intention of doing builders’ work but were interested in the Craft for social, or perhaps for antiquarian reasons, were accepted” into membership; to distinguish these gentlemen Masons from the Operatives in the membership they were called the “Accepted.” After 1717, when the whole Craft was revolutionized into a Fraternity, all members became non-Operatives, hence our use of the word in such phrases as “Free and Accepted Masons.”


Filius is Latin for son, filia for daughter; the prefix “af” is a form of the Latin ad, meaning to add to. To be affiliated means therefore to be adopted into a family as a son or daughter, a meaning that beautifully covers a Mason’s relation to his Lodge once he has affiliated with it.


The Latin for weapons, or arms, was arma. Our “art” and “article” came from the same root, art meaning something originally made by the use of the arms, hands and fingers. The English “alarm” goes back directly to the Italian alle arme, and ultimately to the Latin ad arma so that “alarm” means “to arms, signifying that something has happened of possible danger. A knock at the Lodge door is so named because it calls for alertness, lest the wrong man be permitted to enter.


The Greeks called a place of public assembly agora; from this they built the word agoreuein, meaning speak, in the sense of ad-dressing a public. When to this is added alias, meaning another, the compound gives us our “allegory,” which is the speaking about one thing in the terms of something else. In Masonry we have the allegory of Solomon’s Temple, of a journey, of the legend of a martyr builder, etc., in each case the acting and describing of one thing being intended to refer to some other thing. For example, the building of Solomon’s Temple is described, not for the purpose of telling how that structure was erected, but to suggest boxy men may work together in brotherliness at a common task.


Alt, in Latin, referred to height, preserved in our “altitude;” this root appeared in altare, literally meaning a “high place.” In primitive religion it was a common practice to make sacrifices, or conduct worship, on the top of a hill, or high platform, so that “altar” came to be applied to any stone, post, platform, or other elevation used for such purposes. In. the Lodge the altar is the most holy place.


In Latin apprehendre meant to lay hold of a thing in the sense of learning to understand it, the origin of our “apprehend.” This became contracted into apprendre and was applied to a young man beginning to learn a trade. The latter term came into circulation among European languages and, through the Operative Masons, gave us our “apprentice,” that is, one who is beginning to learn Masonry. An “Entered Apprentice” is one whose name has been entered in the books of the Lodge.


In early English, napron was used of a cloth, a tablecloth, whence our napery, nap-kin; it apparently was derived from the Latin map pa, the source of “map.” “Apron is a misdivided form of “a napron,” and meant a cloth, more particularly a cloth tied on in front to protect the clothes. The Operative Masons wore a leather apron out of necessity; when the craft became speculative this garment, so long identified with building work was retained as the badge of Masons; also as a symbol of purity, a meaning attached to it, probably, in comparatively recent times, though of this one cannot be certain.


The Latin assis was a board or plank; in the diminutive form, assula, it meant a small board, like a shingle, or a chip. In this con-nection it is interesting to note that our “axle” and’ “axis” were derived from it. In early English this became asheler and was used to denote a stone in the rough as it came from the quarries. The Operative Masons called such a stone a “rough ashlar,” and when it had been shaped and finished for its place in the wall they called it a “perfect ashlar.” An Apprentice is a rough ashlar, because unfinished, whereas a Master Mason is a perfect ashlar, because he has been shaped for his place in the organization of the Craft.


The Greek for God was theos; when the j prefix a was placed before it, we get the origin j of “atheism,” signifying a denial of the god, or gods. The word should be distinguished from “agnosticism,” which means neither to affirm nor to deny but to remain in doubt; and from “infidel,” which means that one does not believe some doctrine. Christians call Mohammedans “infidels” because they do not believe the Bible; Mohammendans call Christians “infidels” because they do not believe the Koran. Inasmuch as Masonry requires of a petitioner that he believe in God the atheist is automatically excluded from the Fraternity.


This word is one of the oldest, as it is one of the most beautiful, in any language. No-body knows where or when it originated, but it is certain that it existed in the Sanskrit, in a form strikingly similar to that used by us. In Greek it was phrater, in the Latin frater, whence our “fraternal” and “fraternalism.” It has always meant men from the same parents, or men knit by very close blood ties. When associated with “initiation, which las the general meaning of “being born into,” one can see how appropriate is its k use in Freemasonry. All of us have, through initiation in our “mother” Lodges, been born into a Masonry and therefore we are “brothers,” and that which holds us together in one great family is the “Mystic Tie,” the Masonic analogue of the blood tie among kinsmen.


Among Romans it was the custom for a man seeking office to wear a shining white robe. Since the name for such a color was candidus (whence our “candid”), the office seeker came to be called candidate. In our ceremonies the custom is reversed: the candidate is clothed after his election instead of before.


In Masonry we have “cardinal points” and “cardinal virtues.” The Greeks had kradan, meaning, “swing on,” and the Romans had cardo, meaning “hinge.” The roots mean that on which a thing swings, or hinges, on which a thing depends or hangs, therefore anything that is of fundamental or pivotal, importance. A member of the Sacred College of the Roman Church is a Cardinal because of the importance of his office, which ranks next in dignity to that of the Pope. The cardinal points of the compass are those from which are determined all other points, north, east, south, west; the cardinal virtues are those which are fundamental to all other virtues.


The Latin caerimonia referred to a set of formal acts having a sacred, or revered, character. A ceremony differs from a merely formal act in that it has a religious significance; a formality becomes a ceremony only when it is made sacred. A “ceremony” may be individual, or may involve only two per-sons; a rite” (see below under “ritual”) is more public, and necessarily involves many. An “observance” is public, as when the whole nation “observes” Memorial Day. A “Master of Ceremonies” is one who directs and regulates forms, rites and ceremonies.


The Greeks had a word, charisma, meaning a gift, and a number of words from the same root, variously suggesting rejoicing, gladness. The Latins had a similar word, carus, and meaning dear, possibly connected with am or, signifying love. From these roots came “grace,” meaning a free, unbought gift, as in the theological phrase, “the grace of God,” and “charity.” Strictly speaking, charity is an act done freely, and spontaneously out of friendship, not as a civic duty and grudgingly, as is sometimes the case in public charity. The Masonic use of the word is much nearer this original sense, for a Mason extends relief to a needy brother not as a duty but out of friendship.


In Latin charta was a paper, a card, a map; in Medieval Latin this became an official paper, as in the case of “Magna Charta.” Our “chart” and “card” are derived from the same root. A Masonic charter is the written paper, or instrument, empowering a group of brethren to act as a Lodge.


In Masonic terminology this is the technical name of that ceremony in which the candidate walks around the Lodge. The word 4 is derived from the Latin prefix cireum, meaning “around,” and ainbulare, meaning “walk,” whence our ambulate, ambulatory, etc.; a circumambulation is therefore a walking around. In ancient religions and mysteries the worshippers walked around an altar; imitating the movements of the sun; this became known as circumambulation, and is the origin of our own ceremony.


In Anglo Saxon “helan” meant something hidden, or secret, a meaning preserved in “conceal;” “hell,” the hidden place, is from the same word. Helan descended’ from the Latin celare, hide; and on this was built the Latin clandestinus, secret, hidden, furtive. In English clandestine, thus derived, came to mean a bad secret, one that must be indulged in furtively. A secret may be innocent; it is merely something done without the knowledge of others, and nothing is more common; but a clandestine act is one done in such a way as to elude observation. Clandestine Masonry is a bad kind of irregular and unlawful secret society falsely claiming to be Masonic. In the Constitutions a Clandestine Mason is defined as, “One claiming to be a Free and Accepted Mason not having received the degrees in a Lodge recognized as regular by the Grand Lodge of the State of New York.”


In early English cloth was used of garment, dress, and shows up in our clad, cloth, clothe, clothing. Clothing is the set of garments, or coverings, by which the body is protected from the weather and concealed from view. In Masonic usage the meaning is much narrower and more technical; a Mason is clothed when he wears the apron, white gloves, and the emblem of his rank. The apron and gloves are also employed as symbols, though gloves have pretty much fallen into disuse in American Masonry.


The Greeks called the top or summit of anything kolophon; in Latin culmen had a similar meaning; from these origins come our culmination ;” excelsior, colophon, colonnade, colonel, and climax appears to he closely related to it. A “column” is a cylindrical, or slightly tapering, support; a “pillar” is a rectangular support. Either may stand free or be incorporated into the building fabric. The officers of a Lodge are figured as columns because they are the supports of the official fabric of the Lodge. The Great Pillars are symbolical representations of the two pillars, which stood on the Porch of King Solomon’s Temple.


There is some dispute as to the origin of this word but usually it is held to have come from communis, a Latin term for general, or universal, whence our common, common wealth, communion, communism, communal and many similar words. To communicate is to share something with others so that all may partake of it; a communication is an act, transaction, or deliberation shared in by all present. From this it will be seen how appropriate is our use of the word to designate those official Lodge meetings in which all members have a part or a voice.


This is the plural of compass, from the Latin corn, meaning “together,” and passus, meaning a pass, step, way, or route. Contrivance, cunning, encompass, pass, pace derive from the same roots. A circle was once described as a compass because all the steps in making it were ”together,” that is, of the same distance from the center; and the word, natural transition, became applied to the familiar two-legged’ instrument for drawing a circle. Some Masons use the word in the singular, as in “square and compass,” hut the plural form “square and compasses” would appear to he preferable, especially since it immediately distinguishes the working tool from the mariner’s compass, with which it might be otherwise confused by the uninformed.


Sacer was the Latin for something set aside as holy. By prefixing con, meaning “together,” consecrare resulted, the general significance of which was that by adding to some holy object a formal ceremony the object was declared to be holy to the public, and must therefore be treated as such. The ceremony of consecrating a Lodge room is a way of giving notice to the public that it has been dedicated, or set aside, for Masonic purposes only.


Statuere meant that a thing was set, or placed, or established; when con was added (see immediately above) constituere meant than an official ceremony had set, or fixed, or placed a thing. From the same source come statue, statute, institute, restitute, etc. A Lodge is “constituted” when it is formally and officially set up, and given its own permanent place in the Fraternity.


The origin is unknown, but it may be early Scotch. It was used of a man who practiced Masonry, usually of the roughest character as in the building of walls, who had not been regularly trained and initiated, corresponding in some sense to “scab” as used by labor unions. If a man has learned the work by some illegal method he is a cowan. An “eavesdropper” is one who spies on a Lodge, and may be such without having learned anything about it before. A “clandestine” is one who has gone through initiation ceremonies but not in a regular Lodge.


In Anglo-Saxon, craft meant cunning, skill, power, dexterity, etc. The word became applied to trades and occupations calling for trained skill on the part of those practicing it. The distinction between such trades and those not requiring trained workmen, so rigidly maintained, was one of the hallmarks of the Middle Ages. Freemasonry is called a Craft, partly for historical reasons, partly because, unlike so many fraternities, it requires a training (given in the form of initiation ceremonies) of those seeking its membership.


Despite the fact that the bloom has been rubbed off by our slangy use of it, this is one of the most beautiful words in our language. In Greek, diakonos was a servant, a messenger, a waiting man. In the early Christian Church a deacon served at the Lord’s Supper and administered alms to the poor; and the word still most frequently refers to such a church officer. It appears that the two Lodge offices of Senior and Junior Deacon were patterned on the church offices.


The Latin dedicatus was a participial form of dedicare, the latter having the meaning of declare, devote, proclaim – the root from which “diction” comes. To dedicate a building means by public ceremony to declare it built for some certain purpose. Dedication and consecration are closely allied in meaning, but the latter is more religious in its purposes.


The Latin gradus from which are derived grade, gradual, graduation, etc., meant a step, or set of steps, particularly of a stair; when united with the prefix, da, meaning “down,” it became degradus, and referred to steps, degrees, progress by marked stages. From this came our “degree,” which is a step, or grade, in the progress of a candidate toward the consummation of his membership. Our habit of picturing the degrees as proceeding from lower to higher, like climbing a stair, is thus very close to the ancient and original meaning of the word.


A group of words such as compute, repute, depute sprang from the Latin putare, which meant (among other things) to estimate, to think, to count among. From this came deputatus, to select, to appoint. The idea was that from a number of persons one was told off for a special duty, hence our word “deputy.” A deputation is an instrument appointing some man or group of men to act for others officially. Our Deputy Grand Master is thus set apart to act in the place of the Grand Master on need, and a District Deputy Grand Master is so called because he is appointed or told off by the Grand Master to act as his personal representative in a District.


(Also spelled “dimit.”) As a verb this hails from the Latin dimettere, to send away, to release, to let go; we have it in our “dismiss.” To dimit from an organization is, using the official form, to resign, to relinquish one’s membership. It has this meaning in Masonry.


‘While this is not as familiar to Masons as the preceding words, it should come into more popular use because it is the technical name to describe an important element in the ceremony of initiation. Calceare was the Latin for shoe, calceatus meant shod. When united with the prefix dis, meaning apart, or asunder, our discalceate was originated, the obvious meaning of which is the removal of one’s shoes, as suggested in the familiar Bible passage, “Put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.” The ceremonial removal of the shoes is properly called the “rite of discalceation.”


Pendere was the Latin word for a weight, the root from which came many English words, notably pendent, expend, spend, dispense, etc. With the prefix dis, explained in the preceding paragraph, dispendere meant to weigh out, to pay off, to expend. From this came dispensatus, meaning to manage, to regulate, to distribute. In our usage a dispensation is a written instrument by which authority is made over to a group of brethren to form a Lodge.


This is not a very beautiful word but it is interesting. It first came into existence among the early English, Dutch, German, and Scandinavian peoples, generally in the form dotten, dutten, meaning to nod with drowsiness, to nap. Since it was old people who most frequently sat nodding in their chairs it became associated with old age. “An old man in his dotage” is one who nods or prattles like a sleepy child, and whose faculties have begun to decay through old age. Old age is never a bar to Masonic membership unless it has reached this stage.


In Latin debere meant to owe something; it is preserved in our familiar, too familiar, “debt,” in debit, indebted, debenture, duty, dues, etc. Related is the French devoir, often employed in English, meaning a piece of work one is under obligation to do. The same idea appears in “duty,” which means that which is due, or that which is owed, in the moral sense. Dues represent one’s fixed and regular indebtedness to his Lodge which he placed himself under obligation to pay when he signed the by-laws.


Early European peoples used a word in various forms – evese, obasa, opa, etc., -which meant the rim, or edge, of something, like the edge of a field; it came in time to be applied wholly to the gutter which runs along the edge of a roof. (Our “over” comes from this root.) “Dropper” had an origin among the same languages, and meant that which drips, or dribbles, like water dropping from a thawing icicle. Eavesdrop, therefore, was the water which dripped from the eaves. If a man set himself to listen through a window or keyhole to what was going on in a house he had to stand so close that the eavesdropping would fall upon him, for which reason all prying persons, seeking by secret means what they have no business to know, came to be called eavesdroppers.


The root of this word is the Latin dicere, speak; united with the prefix e, meaning out, to come forth, it produced edicere, meaniiig to proclaim, to speak out with authority. It came in time to be applied to the legal pronouncements of a sovereign or ruler speaking in his own name and out of his own authority. When a Grand Master issues a certain official proclamation in his own name and out of the authority vested in his office it is an edict.


This beautiful and significant word, so familiar to Masons, has historical affiliations with the original idea embodied in “mosaic work,” on whch something is said below. Emblem is derived from the Greek prefix en, meaning in, united with ballein, meaning cast, put. The word became applied to raised decorations on pottery, to inlay work, tessellated and mosaic work; and since such designs were nearly always formal and symbolical in character, emblem came to mean an idea expressed by a picture or design. As Bacon put it, an emblem represents an intellectual conception in a sensible image. It belongs to that family of words of which type, symbol, figure, allegory, and metaphor are familiar members.


This is the opposite of exoteric. The root of it is the Greek eso, within. It means that which is secret, in the inner circle. Exoteric is that which is outside. In Masonry the “esoteric work” is that part of the Ritual which it is illegal to publish, while the exoteric is that part which is published in the Monitor.


In Anglo Saxon lagu (from which we have “law”) meant that which was permanently ordered, fixed, set; fe meant property; fela suggested properties set together, in other words, a partnership. From this we have “fellow,” a companion, mate, partner, an equal, a peer. A man became a “fellow” in a Medieval guild or corporation when admitted a member on the same terms as all others, sharing equally in the duties, rights, and privileges. In Operative Masonry, in order to be a fellow a man had to be a Master Mason, in the sense of having passed through his apprenticeship, so that Masters were fellows and fellows were Masters. Prior to about 1740 “Fellow of the Craft” and “Master Mason” referred to the same grade or degree, but at about that year a new division in ranking was made, and “Fellow Craft” was the name given to the Second Degree in the new system, Master Mason to the Third.


We speak of the “form of the Lodge,” “due form,” etc. The word is derived from the Latin forma, which meant the shape, or figure, or frame of anything; also it was used of a bench, or seat, whence the old custom of calling school benches “forms.” It is the root of formal, formation, informal, and scores of other English words equally familiar. The “form of the Lodge” is its symbolical shape; a ceremony is in “due form” if it have the officially required character or framework of words and actions.


The key to the meaning of this magnificent word lies in its derivation from the Latin fords, meaning strong, powerful, used in the Middle Ages of a stronghold, or fort. Force, enforce, fortify, fortification, forceful, are from the same root. A man of fortitude has a character built strong like a fort, which can be neither taken by bribe nor over-thrown by assault, however strong may be the enemy, or however great may be the suffering or deprivation within. One is reminded of Luther’s great hymn, “A mighty fortress is our God.”


This the most prized, perhaps, of all words in Masonry, harks back to the Latin frater, which is so closely allied to “brother,” as already noted in the paragraph on that word. It gives us fra, frater, fraternize, and many other terms of the same import. A fraternity is a society in which the members strive to live in a brotherly concord patterned on the family relations of blood brothers, where they are worthy of the tie. To be fraternal means to treat another man as if he were a brother in the most literal sense.


Gage (also spelled “gauge”) has an uncertain ancestry. Early French and English peoples had gauger, gagen, etc., which referred to the measuring of wine casks; some believe our “gallon” and “gill” to have been thus derived. Its meaning became enlarged to include any kind of measuring, literally or figuratively. The instrument used to do the measuring came to be called “the gage.” Among Operative Masons it was used to measure a stone for cutting to the required “twenty-four-inch gage” is such a measuring rod or stick marked off into twenty-four inches.


It is unfortunate that for most men schoolroom drudgery has robbed this beautiful word of its poetry. The Greek geo (in compounds) was earth, land; metron was measure. The original geometer was a landmeasurer, a surveyor, but his methods became broadened and applied to many other kinds of problems, so that at last his craft became a portion of the art of mathematics. Geometry, that branch of mathematics which deals with figures in space, is associated in every Mason’s mind with the immortal Euclid, who figures 50 prominently in all the ancient Masonic manuscripts. It achieved its great place in Freemasonry because of its constant and prime importance in the builders’ art. Symbolically speaking geometry (to it the Letter G originally referred), consists of all those fixed principles and laws of morality and of thought to which a right char-acter and a true mind adjust themselves.


The Greeks had graphein, to write, or draw (from this we have graphic, engrave, etc.) ; gramma was that which was written or drawn. Grammar now refers only to the skeletonal framework of language, its parts of speech and their combinations, hut formerly it included all forms of learning based’ on language, such as rhetoric and what is now taught in the schools as English; by the time our Monitor was written, however, grammar and rhetoric had become differentiated, nevertheless the Monitorial portion of the Second Degree makes it plain that a Fellow Craftis expected to be a literate man, knowing something of the arts of language in both speaking and writing. In interpreting the Second Degree this wide meaning of “grammar must be kept in mind.


Grandis in the Latin meant great, large, awesome, especially in the sense of imposing; it was afterwards applied to the aged, the ripe in experience, an application easy enough to understand when one recalls the reverence paid by the Romans to seniority, long experi-ence, etc. this latter meaning appears in our grandfather, grandmother, grandsire, etc. In English the word developed in two directions, one toward that which is great, large, awe-in-spiring, as in “grandeur,” the other toward dignity, exalted power. Our own use of the term in “Grand” Lodge, “Grand” East, “Grand” Master, harks back to the latter of the two usages. The head of the Craft is called “Grand”’ Master because he is its most exalted official.


Grip, grope, grab, grasp, gripe came the same roots. The Anglo Saxon gripe meant to clutch, to lay hold of, to seize, to grasp strongly. A grip means to clasp another’s hand firmly; it differs from a mere hand. clasp, which may be a meaningless formality. in that it is done earnestly, and for a purpose—for what purpose in our fraternal system every Mason knows. A grip should be giver. as if one meant it; half of its meaning lies in the way it is done.


The Latin nonus referred to the ninth hour of the day, that is, nine hours after sunrise. In the Medieval church it referred to the middle hour between midday and sunset, that is, about three o’clock P.M. In the course ot time it came to refer to any part of the middle of the day, and finally to twelve o’clock. The origin of our “High Twelve” is uncertain, but it is probable that it goes back to a time before “noon” was generally used for twelve o’clock; the “high” doubtless refers to the sun, which at that time was at its highest point in the sky.


“Hood” goes back to old German and Anglo Saxon, in which it referred to head covering, as in hat, hood, helmet, etc.; “wink,” in the same languages, meant to close the eyes, “wench,” “wince,” etc., being similarly derived. A hoodwink was therefore a headdress designed to cover the eyes. The popular use of the word is believed to go back to the old sport of falconry, once so popular, in which the falcon had a hood over its eyes until ready to strike at its prey.


The Latin initium means beginning, as in our initial”; initiatus, the participle from the verb initiare, referred to any act incident to the beginning or introduction of a thing. The word came widely into use in mysteries and sacred rites, whence it has come into our 4Masonic nomenclature. Back of it, as used by us, is the picture of birth, so that the Masonic initiation means that a candidate has been born into the Masonic life, making the same kind of beginning therein that a babe makes when born into the world.


Stallum was the Late Latin for place, or seat, or proper position, which meaning is preserved in our English “stall.” To “install” therefore means that one has been placed in his seat or station—the “in” meaning here the same as in English. A Masonic installation is a ceremony by which an elected officer is officially placed in the seat to which his brethren have elected him.


The Latin labor meant toil, work, the put-ting forth of effort; it appears to be akin to robur, or strength, preserved in our “robust.” While labor and work are used interchange-ably, the latter is a more generic word, and admits of a much wider range of uses. Work may be either hard or easy but labor is always hard; work is used of all sorts of effort; labor refers generally to muscular effort, followed by fatigue. When labor is kept up unremittingly it is toil; and when toil is uninteresting, uninspiring, and poorly paid it is drudgery. When working, one’s ambition is to succeed with it; when laboring, one looks forward to resting from it; hence, it is from labor that we seek refreshment, not from work.


In the early Anglo Saxon, German, or Scandinavian languages the noun “land” meant the same as in modern English, although as a verb it meant “come to land,” a meaning reflected in our custom of saying a man lands from a ship, etc. “Mark” is found in almost all European languages, and derives from the Latin margo, edge, boundary, whence our margin, mark, and cognate terms. A “landmark” is some mark, line or object to indicate a boundary. The landmarks of Masonry are those principles by which the Craft is bounded, that is, marked off from all other societies and associations and with-out which it would lose its identity.


The Greeks had legein, speak; the Latins legere, read; from these we have legend, lecture, etc. In the early Christian church the legend was the Scripture selection read in a church service; later the term became ap-plied to stories about the lives of the saints, especially to their wonders and miracles. The famous “Golden Legend,” a collection of such stories, was one of the most popular books of the Middle Ages. Legend’, as now used, is a story without historical foundations but told in the form of history, hence our “Legend of the Third Degree,” a narrative in dramatic form that Masons have long understood to be non-historical.


In Latin libra was a balance, the root of our libration, equilibrium; libella was the diminutive form of the same word, and from it has come our level, an instrument by which a balance is proved, or by which may be detected the horizontal plane. It is closely as-sociated in use with the plumb, by which a line perpendicular to the horizontal is proved. The level is that on which there are no in-equalities, hence in Masonry it is correctly used’ as a symbol of equality. “We meet upon the level” because Masonic rights, duties, and privileges are the same for all members with-out distinction.


A candidate is “brought to light.” “Let there be light” is the motto of the Craft. It is one of the key words of Masonry. It is very ancient, harking back to the Sanskrit ruc, meaning shine. The Greeks had luk, preserved in many English words, especially such as have leuco in their make-up, as in “leucocyte,” a white blood corpuscle. The Latins had luc or lux in various forms, whence our light, lucid, luminous, illumine, lunar, lightning, etc. The word means bright, clear, shining, and is associated in its use with the sun, moon, fire, etc. By an inevitable asso-ciation the word came into metaphorical use to mean the coming of truth and knowledge into the mind. ‘When a candidate ceases to be ignorant of Masonry, when through initiation the truths of Masonry have found entrance into his mind, he is said to be “enlightened” in the Masonic sense.


Liber was the Latin for “free,” as in our liberty, liberal, etc. When the Romans gave a slave his freedom he was called libertus, so that in Roman history a libertine was a freed-man. In theology a libertine came to mean one who holds loose views, a freethinker; in morality, a licenticus person, one who flouts moral laws. Whether the early Masons used “libertine” to mean a “freethinker” or a licentious man, is a point that has never been decided’; in practice, they probably used it in both senses.


This word comes from the Old French, English and Medieval Latin, and meant gen-erally a hut, a cottage, a gallery, a covered way, etc.; our “lobby” had the same beginning. How the Operative Masons came to employ the term, and just what they meant by it, has never been determined; they had a symbolic Lodge, their building was a Lodge, the group of members was a Lodge, an as-sembly of Masons was a Lodge, and often times the whole body of Masons was called a Lodge. In our own usage the word has three technical meanings; the place where Masons meet, the assembly of the brethren duly congregated for labor, and a piece of furniture.


This is a word from the Middle Ages, with an uncertain origin. The old Gothic maitan meant to hew, or cut, and it is supposed the word carried that general meaning through Medieval Latin, English, German, and in the Scandinavian languages. If at first it was used only of a stone-cutter, it came later to mean a builder. Why the Operatives were called “Freemasons” is still an unsolved puzzle; the most likely view is that they were a society of builders free to move from one place to another in contrast to the gild Masons who were confined in their labors to one community. In our Fraternity a Mason is a builder of manhood and brotherhood.


The Latin root mag had the general meaning of great—as in “magnitude”; it was the source of the Latin magister, head, chief, principal, the word of which “magistrate” was made. During the Middle Ages it fell into use as a conventional title applied to persons in superior rank, preserved in our own familiar “mister,” always written “Mr”, a colloquial form of “master.” Also it came to be used’ of a man who had overcome the difficulties in learning an art, thereby proving himself to be greater than his task, as when it is said of an artist who has overcome all the obstacles and difficulties of painting, “He is a master.” A Master Mason is so called because be has proved himself capable of mastering the work; also because he belongs to a Degree so named.


The Latin monere meant to warn; it was the root of our admonish, admonition, etc.; a monitor was the man who did the warning. The term became widely used in early school systems of the senior pupils in a class whose duty it was to instruct his juniors; from this it passed to include the book, the blackboard and other instruments used by him in his teachings. Our use of it carries this last mean-ing; the Masonic Monitor is a book for teaching a candidate the exoteric work.


This word has nothing to do with Moses. Its root was the Greek mousa, a muse, sug-gesting something artistic. The same root appears in our “museum,” literally a place where artistic work is exhibited. Through the Latin it came into modern languages and during the Middle Ages became narrowed down to mean a pattern formed by small pieces of inlay, a form of decorative work much in vogue during the time of the Opera-tive Masons. Our “mosaic pavement is so called because it consists of an inlay pattern, small black and white squares alternating to suggest day and night.


This word is used in Masonry in two senses entirely different; indeed, though spelled and pronounced the same, they are really two words. “Mystery” in the sense of strange, unknown, weird, secret, hails from the Greek, .in which muein meant to close the eyes, lips and ears; from this came musterion, a secret ceremony or doctrine, appearing in Latin as mysterium. The word mystery, thus derived, means secrecy, hiddenness, and is properly used of the esoteric elements in Ma­sonry. But in the phrase “arts, parts and mysteries” the word is from the Latin minister­ium, having the meaning of trade, art, craft, occupation, etc., preserved in the familiar metier from the French, often used as an English word, and the much more familiar “minister,” “ministry,” etc.; in this sense — the sense most often used in our Craft the “mysteries of Masonry” are its workings, just as the mysteries of Operative Masonry were its trade secrets known only to those trained and skilled in the building arts. In the latter of the two senses “mystery” and “master” (see above) are closely affiliated in origin, a master being one who has become completely skilled in mysteries.


In the Greek, muster was one who had been initiated. Originally, so Jane Harrison be­lieves, the root word referred to pollution; but inasmuch as the Greek mysteries had for their aim the removal of moral pollution, the word became generally associated with the mysteries themselves, and at last was used to signify a man who had gone through them. Mystic in our own use of it, as in “Mystic Tie,” refers not to the mysterious in Freemasonry, or to any mysticism in it, but to the fact of our being a secret society, practicing initiaton.


Obligate and oblige are sister words, deriving from the same Latin root, ob, a prefix meaning before, or about; and ligare, meaning bind, as in our ligament. An obligation is a tie, or pledge, or bond’ by which a man is tied to his fellows, or gives his word to perform certain duties. Accordingly we have obliging, referring to one who is willing to bind himself to do something for you, obligatory, etc. The obligation is the tie, or bond, itself; in Masonry a formal and voluntary pledge on the candidate’s part by virtue of which he is accepted as a responsible member of the family of Masons.


This has long been a puzzle word in Masonic nomenclature. How, it is asked, can a square be oblong, when a square is equal on all its sides? The answer is that in this connection “square” is used in the sense of rectangle; the angles are squared, not the sides. Oblong is derived from ob, near, or before, and longus, long; that is, it means something approximately long, so that the main axis is much longer than the others, as a slender leaf, a shaft, etc. An “oblong square is a rectangle of which two opposite sides are much longer than the other two. The Lodge symbolically is an oblong square in this sense.


We distinguish Operative Masons, builders of the Middle Ages, founders of Masonry, from Spectulative Masons, present members of the Fraternity, using the builders’ tools as emblems and symbols. The Latin for toil, or work, was opus, still used’ in that form in English to signify a musical or literary achievement. Opus was the root of operari, to work, whence we have our operate, operative, operation, opera, operator, and many others. The Operative Mason was one who toiled at building in the plain, literal sense of the word. “Speculative” will be explained farther down.


Ornare was the Latin verb meaning to adorn, to equip, of which the noun was ama-men turn, trappings, embellishment, furniture, etc., from which was derived our “adorn-ment” and “ornament.” In church usage “ornaments” was the name given to all the equipment used in the services of divine worship. We speak of the mosaic pavement, the indent-ed tessel, and blazing star as “ornaments of the Lodge;” whether the term was used by Lodges originally because they were considered to be adornments, or because they were part of the Lodge equipment it is impos-sible to say, though the latter alternative ap-pears to be the more likely.


The Latin passus meant pace, step, track, passage; it contains the picture of a path, road, aisle, or door through which one can make his way, hence our “pass,” derived from it. From it also we have our word “pace.” A password is any agreed word or counter-sign that permits one to pass through an en-trance or passage otherwise closed.


It is significant that our “penal” derives from the Latin for pain, paena, the root of our penance, penalty, penitence, penitentiary. punish, primitive, pine, and a circle of similar English words. It has the meaning of pain inflicted for the purpose of correction, discipline, or protecting society, never the inflic-tion of pain for its own sake. Our own penalties are symbolical in form, their language being derived from early English forms of punishment for heresy and treason.


The Latin pila was a pile,—such as a pile under a house—a pier, a pillar, or a mole,— the last named a massive stonework enclosing a harbor. In ancient times pillars were used for all manner of religious and symbolical purposes, as when Jacob erected a pillar at a grave, or Solomon set up two great pillars— the prototype of ours—on the Porch before his Temple. (See in connection with this the notes on “column” given above.)


Plumbum was the Latin for lead, and was used also of a scourge with a blob of lead tied to it, of a line with a lead ball at its end for testing perpendicularity, etc., the source of our plumb, plumber, plunge, plump, plumbago, plummet, etc. A plumb-line is accordIngly a line, or cord, with a piece of lead at the bottom to pull it taut, used to test vertical walls with the line of gravity, hence, by a simple expansion of reference, an emblem of uprightness.

Up means up, right means straight; an upright man is one who stands straight up and down, doesn’t bend or wabble, has no crooks in him, like a good solid wall that won’t cave in urnkr pressure.


This has a technical meaning in Masonry, nevertheless it adheres closely to the original significance of the word. Fanum was the Latin for temple; pro meant “before,” in the sense of “outside of.” It is the picture of man standing on the outside, not permitted to enter. It has tlfis same sense in Masonry; the “profane” are those men and women who stand outside of Masonry. The word here, of course, has nothing to do with profanity in the sense of sacrilegious language.


Qualify comes from the same word as quality. The root of it is the Latin qua, preserved in our “what.” The quality of a thing was its whatness, the stuff of which it was made, its nature. The fy in “qualify” is from facere, to make, so that “qualify” means that a thing is made of the required stuff; and qualification means the act by which a thing is made of the required nature, or is declared to have it. The candidate for the Degrees of Masonry must possess certain characteristics in his nature; must be a man of lawful age, etc., and these are his qualifications.


The Latin quadratum was a square; originally, quadrate and quarry meant the same. The word became applied’ to the pit from which rock is hewn because the principal task of workmen therein was to cut, or square, the stones; hence, literally a quarry is a place where stone-squaring is done. In Masonry “quarry” sometimes refers to the rock pits from which Solomon’s workmen hewed out the stones for his Temple; at other times it refers to the various arenas of Masonic activities, as when it is said of an active Lodge member that “he is a faithful laborer in the quarry.”


In the Anglo Saxon arisan was used of any motion up or down, but in English it became used only of an upward motion, as in arise, rising, raise, rear, etc. Raise means to hoist, or carry, or lift, a body upward in space. There is no need to explain to a Mason why it is said of a candidate who has completed the Third Degree that he has been “raised,” or why the climactic ceremony in that Degree is described as “raising.” One is “initiated” an Entered Apprentice, “passed” a Fellowcraft, “raised” a Master Mason.


Friscus, or frescus, in the Latin had the meaning of new, fresh, recent; the re meant again; so that refresh means to renew, to make over, to undo the ravages of use and time, in Shakespeare’s phrase, “to knit up the raveled sleeve of care.” To “pass from labor to refreshment” is to find rest and recreation so as to undo the wearing effects of toil, as when a laborer knocks off at noon to eat his lunch and have a rest.


The Latin rex, king, sovereign, ruler, was a root from which many words have sprung, regal, royal, etc.; the Latins themselves had regula, or rule, and regere, to rule or govern. From this source has come our “regular.” It means a rule established on legitimate authority. In Masonry “regular” is applied to those rules which have been established by Grand Lodges and Grand Masters. A “regular Lodge” is one that conforms to Grand Lodge requirements; a “regular Mason” is the mem-ber of such a Lodge who conforms to its laws and by-laws.


This, one of the noblest words in the English language, is also one of the oldest, being found in the very ancient Sanskrit in the form raj meaning rule. It appeared in Latin as rectus, meaning direct, straight, a rule,— rule being used in the sense of our ruler, a device for drawing a line which is the shortest distance between two points. Such words as regent, rail, direct, rector, rectify, rule, came from this Latin term. Right means “straight,” as in a “right line,” a “right angle,” etc.; through a familiar metaphorical application it has come to stand for conduct in conform-ity with moral law. Our “rights” are those privileges which strict law allows to us. A “horizontal” is a right line on the level; a perpendicular” is a right line up and down, or at right angles to the horizontal. “Right” and “regular,” discussed just above, origi-nally were close together in meaning.


A ritual is a system of rites. “Rite,” like “right,” is very old; it has been traced to the if Sanskrit riti, meaning usage, which in turn was derived from ri, meaning flow, suggesting the regular current of river. In Latin this became ritus meaning in general a custom, more particularly a religious custom, or usage. In taking over this word the church applied it to the acts in solemn religious services which had to be performed according to strict rules. In Masonry the ritual is the prescribed set of ceremonies used for the purpose of initiation. It should be noted that a set of ceremonies does not become a ritual until it has been prescribed by some official authority.


This, like our words “sign” and “insignia,” is derived from the Latin sigillum, diminu-tive of signum, meaning a mark, or sign. It is some kind of device affixed to a document in place of a signature or in close connection with a signature for the purpose of showing that the document is regular or official. A document bearing the seal of a Lodge shows that it is officially issued by the Lodge, and not by some irresponsible person or persons. The word is also used of the tool by means of which the device is stamped into wax, or whatever similar material may be used for the purpose.


From Se, apart, and cernere, separate, the Latins had secretum, suggesting something separated from other things, apart from com-mon kndwledge, hidden, covered, isolated, hence “secrecy.” There is a fundamental difference between “secret” and “hidden,” far whereas the latter may mean that nobody knows where a thing is, nothing can be secret e without at least one person knowing it. The secrets of Freemasonry are known to all Masons, therefore are not hidden; they are secrets only in the sense that they are not known to profanes. A similar word is “occult,” which means a thing naturally secret, one, as it were, that secretes itself, so that few can know about it. See also the paragraphs on “clandestine” and “mystery” in the preceding pages. There is also another less familiar word in Masonry meaning hidden, covered up, concealed, secret; it is pronounced “hail” but is spelled “hele.”


The present use of this word has departed widely from its original meaning. The Latin secretus meant secret, private; secretarium was a conclave, a caucus, a council behind closed doors, consequently a secretarius was some very confidential officer, and was used of a secretary in our sense, of a notary, a scribe, etc. Since the handling of correspon-dence and the keeping of records is usually a confidential service the man who does it has come to be called a secretary. The secretary of a Lodge cares for all its correspondence and its records.


This comes from the Latin signum, a word which appears in a dozen or more English words, as signature, signet, signify, consign, countersign, resign, etc. Where a seal is used principally on documents and for the purpose of showing them to be official, sign is used much more variously and widely; it is some kind of gesture, device, mark, or design which indicates something, or points to something, and which often has a meaning known only to the initiated. Masonic signs are gestures that convey a meaning which only Masons understand, and which most frequently are used for purposes of recognition.


The Latin specere meant to see, to look about; specula was a watchtower, so called because from it one could look about over a wide territory. It came to be used metaphorically of the mental habit of noting all the aspects of a subject; also, as applied to theo-retical knowledge as opposed to practical skill. “Speculative Masonry” was knowledge of the science, or theory, of building; “Operative Masonry,” trained skill in putting that knowledge into practice. ‘When Operative Masonry was dropped out of the Craft in the eighteenth century, only the speculative ele-ments remained and these became the basis of our present Fraternity. It is for this reason that we continue to describe it as Speculative Masonry. The word has nothing to do with philosophical speculation, or with theorizing merely for its own sake.


As noted in the paragraph on “quarry” the Latin quad ratum was a square. Quatuor meant “four;” from it we have square, four, quad, quadrangle, squadron, etc. In geometry I a square is a four-sided straight-lined figure having all its sides equal and all its angles right angles; and since early carpenters and Masons had to use an instrument for proving the angles to be right, they fell into the habit of calling that instrument a square. In Ma-sonry the square is used in at least three distinct senses; as a sharp instrument, as a working tool, and as a symbol, the last named when used with the compasses on the Holy Bible. As a symbol it refers to the earth, for so long a time supposed to be square in shape; as a working tool, it refers to all those forces by means of which one prepares himself to fit into his own proper place in the Brotherhood, like a Perfect Ashlar in a wall.


This came into general use through the church, in which it was adopted as the name for an important official and also for an important theological doctrine; the doctrine of stewardship. The word itself had a peculiar origin. In Anglo Saxon stigo was a sty or place in which domestic animals were kept; I weard (see “warden” on following page) was a guard, or keeper; therefore the steward was the keeper of the cattle pens. Its meaning became enlarged to include the duties of general over-seer, one who is in charge of a household or estate for another; and still more generally, one who provides for the needs for food, money, and supplies. In the history of Ma-sonry the office of steward has performed a variety of functions; the caring of funds, distribution of charity, preparing for banquets and similar services.


Sublimis, in Latin, referred to something high, lofty, exalted, like a city set on top of a hill, or an eagle’s nest atop some lonely crag. It refers to that which is eminent, of superlative degree, moral grandeur, spiritual exaltation. Inasmuch as the Third Degree is at the top of the system of Ancient Craft Masonry, it is known as “The Sublime Degree.


Like the word monitor, explained some pages back, summons is derived from the Latin term of which the verb was monere, meaning to warn, or to remind, as in “admonish ;“ the “sum” is the combining form of sub, under, or privy to, in the secret of, as in the old phrase “sub rosa.” A summons is an official call sent out by persons in authority to some person acknowledging that authority to appear at some place, or to perform some duty; in other words a person who is “on the inside,” who is a member, is admonished by his superiors, and must obey under penalty. The duty involved and the penalty attached distinguishes a summons from a mere invita-tion. A Lodge, Grand Lodge, or some official issues a summons; a fellow Mason not in official position makes a sign; a Mason is under obligation to respond to either, if it be due, official, or regular.


It is interesting to compare this word with “emblem” with which it is so often confused. The Greek symbolon was a mark, or sign, or token, or tally; it is derived from sun, togeth-er, and ballein, put, or throw, from which we have ball, ballistics, etc. Symbolon indicated two things put together, thrown together, or matched together. If, for example, the numeral 9 is matched to a pile of marbles, one to one, the 9 is a symbol of the number of marbles. From this came the custom of calling a symbol some object, device, design, picture, etc., used not for its own sake, but for the purpose of referring to some other, and per-haps very different, thing with which it has been associated. It is any visible, audible, or tangible object used to typify some idea, or truth, or quality, as when a wedding ring is made the symbol of marriage, the square is made the symbol of the earth, or the cross is made the symbol of Christianity, the crescent of Mohammedanism, etc.


The Greeks had temenos, a sacred enclosure, a plot of ground marked off to be a holy place; the Latins had templum, a consecreated place. A temple is a building set apart because it is holy, dedicated to religious uses. It has its place in Masonry largely because of the prominence of Solomon’s Temple in the Ritual. It is interesting to note that in Masonic nomenclature the ideal life, here and hereafter, is described metaphorically as a temple, one of a thousand examples of the extent to which Freemasonry is saturated with religious language and emotions.


Also spelled “tyler.” In the Latin tegere (from which came “thatch”) meant cover, roof; tegulae were the tiles, pieces, slabs, used for roof-coverings. A tiler, therefore, is one who makes, or fastens on, tiles. Since in Operative Masonry the tiler was the workman who closed the building in, and hid its interior from outside view, the guardian of the entrance to the Lodge was figuratively called by this name. It was once supposed that “tiler” came from the French tailleur, a cutter, a hewer (from whence we have “tailor”), and it was accordingly spelled “tyler;” that, however, is incorrect, “tiler” being the correct spelling.


This is from the Greek deigma.. meaning example, or proof—the origin of the word “teach,” and in its orginal sense had much the same meaning as sign and symbol, for it was an ob5ect used as the sign of something else. It is generally used, however, in the sense of a pledge or of an object that proves something. In our usage a token is something that exhibits, or shows, or proves that we are Masons—the grip of recognition, for example.


This harks back to the Latin vocare, to call, to summon, and is the origin of voice, vouchsafe, vocation (in the sense of a “calling”), vocal, etc. To vouch is to raise one s voice in testimony, to bear witness, to affirm, to call to witness. If we vouch for a brother we raise the voice to testify that we know him to be a regular Mason.


Wage, of which wages is the collective plural, remotely descended from the Latin vas, having the meaning of pledge, security, pawn, or a promise to pay backed up by security. After it entered into modem languages it had a peculiar history; it became “gage,” a pledge or pawn, appearing in our engage, disengage, etc., but having no relation with gage, one of our Working Tools; “wager” in the sense of a bet; in another context it became “wed,” the act of marrying, so called because of the pledges given; and “wage” in the sense of compensation for service given. An “allowance” is a one-sided form of payment, depending on the will of the giver; a “stipend” is a fixed sum, usually nominal, and is supposed to be paid as per a permanent arrangement; a “salary” (from sal, or salt, the old pay given soldiers) is an amount fixed by contract, and estimated over a relatively long period of time, year or month; “wages” are paid to laborers over short periods of time, or at the completion of the required task. In Speculative Masonry the Master Mason symbolically receives “wages,” rather than salary, because they represent the rewards that come to him as rapidly as he does his work; and, as the etymology of the word suggests, they are certain, something one may bank on.


“Ward” is of Medieval origin, having been used in early English, French, German, etc., always in the sense of to guard something, a meaning preserved in warden, guard, guardian, wary, ware, ward, etc. A warden is guardian of the west gate of the Temple, the Junior Warden of the south gate.


This also derives from the same source, and carries the general meaning of “to de-fend,” “to guard.” Warrant is sometimes used as a pledge of security; in Masonry it is a document officially issued to authorize the formation of a Lodge, and consequently acts as the pledge, or security, for the future activity of it.


The idea behind this noble old word is one that has powerfully appealed to all European peoples and is found in nearly every Euro-pean language. The Greek ergon meant work, organ on. was the instrument by which work was done; from this source we have energy, organ, erg, and it appears in combination in such words as metallurgy. To work means to put forth effort in order to accomplish something; play is also a putting forth of effort, but in that case the effort is its own end, and is done for its own sake. Work has an end beyond itself. The official ritual of the Lodge is called the Standard Work; it came to be so called by analogy, the ritual of Speculative Masonry corresponding to the daily labor of the Operative Masons.


The Anglo Saxon worth was something honorable, deserving of respect, a meaning that shows up in worth, the value of anything, also in worship, which is deference paid to some object or person of great importance. Worshipful describes something full of the qualities calling for such deference. It was used in Medieval times of one’s parents, officers of the state, prelates, etc., signifying that such persons were of high station or entitled to deferential respect. It is so used in our term, “Worshipful Master.”

The Blue Lodge consists of three separate degrees.

“The word degree, in its primitive meaning, signifies a step. The degrees of Freemasonry are, then, the steps by which the candidate ascends from a lower to a higher condition of knowledge.” Albert G. Mackey, The Encyclopedia of Freemasonry , 1873

The degrees are: Entered Apprentice, FellowCraft, and Master Mason. Each of the degrees requires the candidate to participate in the drama being presented. They are all of a very serious nature and not in the least demeaning of the candidate. Masonic catechisms are a series of memorized questions and answers pertaining to a specific degree. Usually, the candidate meets with a lodge member who knows these catechisms and helps him to memorize the work. The catechisms simply reiterate the degree work that the candidate recently completed and proves his proficiency with them. Once a catechism is completed the candidate can proceed to the next degree.

Entered Apprentice Degree


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

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


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

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

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

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

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


Ideally, the candidate should find his way to the door of Freemasonry on his own. If a man senses the stirrings in his heart for a deeper understanding of life than that he has heretofore found, he will seek until he finds the Fraternity. This turning of the heart is really the beginning of his initiation. Therefore, each candidate who comes seeking light is said to be first prepared in his heart.

While Freemasonry is not a religion, its ceremonies are of a serious nature, dignified in their presentation and impart teachings that, if properly understood, obligate a man to lead a better life. To get the greatest good from the ceremonies, a candidate should first prepare his mind to understand and absorb these teachings. The candidate should pay strict attention to every part of the ceremony, in order that he may gain some understanding of the teachings of Freemasonry. The methods we use in teaching may be new and unusual to the candidate, but these methods have been used for many centuries and have not changed significantly since they originated. Finally, he should remember that every Mason in the Lodge room is his friend and brother.


Being duly and truly prepared refers to the wearing of special garments furnished by the Lodge to emphasize our concern with man’s internal qualifications, rather that his worldly wealth and honors. By wearing these garments, the candidate signifies the sincerity of his intentions. The symbolism of the Rite of Destitution reverts to those ancient times when men believed that the soul descended through the planetary spheres and vested itself with the qualities attributed to each sphere before birth. Each planetary quality corresponds to a specific metal. In ancient initiations, candidates were compelled to leave all metals behind, lest they bring into the assembly disturbing planetary influences. While this symbolism may no longer have an astrological character, the old point about excluding disturbing influences remains. The candidate is not to bring into the Lodge room his passions or prejudices, lest that harmony, which is one of the chief concerns of Masonry, be destroyed.

Being duly and truly prepared also refers to the state of a man’s heart and soul as he seeks admission into our Order. “Seek and ye shall find. Ask and it shall be given unto you. Knock and it shall be opened unto you.”

There are other factors involved in the preparation of the candidate that we will address in the next degree.


The symbolism of the hoodwink is twofold: first, it emphasizes the veil of secrecy and silence surrounding the mysteries of Freemasonry; secondly, it represents the mystical darkness, or ignorance, of the uninitiated. It is removed at the appropriate time; that is, when the candidate is in the proper attitude to receive Light.


The Cable-Tow is a rope such as would be used to tow or restrain. It is also generally regarded as a symbol of the voluntary and complete acceptance of, and pledged compliance with, whatever Masonry may have in store. To many, the Cable-Tow is symbolic of the umbilical cord, which is necessary to begin life; but is severed when love and care replace it, and the individual grows on his own. The length of the Cable-Tow is frequently referred to in the language of Freemasonry, but many of the new Brethren do not understand its meaning. Formerly, a Cable-Tow was deemed to be the distance one could travel in an hour, which was assumed to be about three miles. In California this is any reasonable distance from which a summons may be answered, health and business permitting. Each Mason is bound to all other Masons by a tie as long and as strong as he himself determines his ability will permit. One may also consider the idea of the silver cord (Ecclesiastes 12:6) and the Cable-Tow.


As an Entered Apprentice takes his first step into the Lodge room, he enters into a New World: the world of Masonry. He leaves the darkness, destitution and helplessness of the world for the light and warmth of this new existence. It is not an idle formality, but a genuine experience, the beginning of a new career in which duties, rights and privileges are real. If a candidate is not to be an Apprentice in name only, he must stand ready to do the work upon his own nature that will make him a different man. Members are called craftsmen because they are workmen. Lodges are quarries because they are scenes of toil. Freemasonry offers no privileges or rewards except to those who earn them; it places working tools, not playthings, in the hands of its members. To become a Mason is a solemn and serious undertaking. Once the step is taken, it may well change the course of a man’s life.


The reception of the candidate into the Lodge room is intended to symbolize the fact that our rituals are serious and confidential and that there are consequences for violating this confidence. It also reminds a man that his every act has a consequence, either in the form of a reward or a penalty. The method of reception also points out the value of a certain virtue needed to gain admission into the mysteries of Masonry.


No Lodge can be opened or be closed without prayer, which is offered by the Master or Chaplain. The prayer is universal in nature, and not peculiar to any one religion or faith. But the act of invoking the blessings of Deity is a central Masonic practice. At the end of prayer, each member responds with the words “So Mote it Be”, which means in Modern English, “So may it ever be”.


Circumambulation means to walk around some central point or object. In Masonry, the act is performed in a clockwise manner, patterned after the movement of the sun as it is seen from the earth, moving from East to West, by way of the South. The candidate’s journey around the Altar also enables the brethren to observe that he is properly prepared. Circumambulation is an ancient practice found all over the world. Much the same idea as the labyrinth, it portrays the path of initiation as that of a journey. In another sense, it symbolically aligns one to a proper relationship with the order of the universe. There are references to circuitous routes in Psalms 26:6 and Job 22:14. And one may remember the action at Jericho.


The central piece of furniture in the Lodge is the Altar. The Altar is symbolic of many things. As a temple symbolizes the presence of Deity, the altar symbolizes the point of contact. Its location in the center of the Lodge also symbolizes the place which God has in Masonry, and which he should have in every Mason’s life. It is also a symbol of worship and faith. The candidate approaches the Altar in search of light and assumes his obligations there. In the presence of God and his Brethren, he offers himself to the service of the Supreme Architect of the Universe and to mankind in general. The Altar is the point on which life in our Masonic Lodges is focused and it should be accorded the highest respect.

The wisdom of the Master is said to flow from his station in the East to the Altar. Thus, one should never cross between the Master’s Station and the Altar when a Lodge is in session.


The Obligation is the heart of the Degree; for when it is assumed by the candidate, he has solemnly bound himself to Freemasonry and assumed certain duties which are his for the rest of his life. The taking of the Obligation is visible and audible evidence of the candidate’s sincerity of purpose. The Obligation has a two-fold purpose. In addition to binding the candidate to Freemasonry and its duties, it also protects the Fraternity against someone revealing the modes of recognition and symbolic instruction. The candidate should understand that the great truths which Masonry teaches are not secret, but the manner in which Freemasonry teaches these truths is considered secret.

Like much in the Fraternity, the roots of this practice are ancient. Making vows was a common practice in the Mysteries and was even a form of personal religion to the general populace. In many ways the vow defined their relationship with the deities of their homeland. Many vows were expressed in terms such as promises to a deity in return for safe voyages, successful crops, healing and so on. Although the nature of making vows and obligations has changed in modern times, it remains a very powerful method for setting direction in one’s life and the building of character. The Latin obligato literally signifies a tying or binding. The relationship between the Cable Tow and the Obligation, along with the changing nature of this relationship as the candidate progresses, should not go unnoticed.


The Three Great Lights of Masonry are the Holy Bible, Square and Compass. The Volume of the Sacred Law (no matter what religion) is an indispensable part of a Lodge. The Grand Lodges of the United States use the Holy Bible as the V.S.L. on their Altars. In our jurisdiction, a candidate may request to have his own sacred book present on the Altar with the Bible during his degree ceremonies. In Lodges in other countries, other sacred texts are placed on the Altar in place of the Holy Bible, but no Lodge in California may stand officially open, unless the Holy Bible is opened upon its Altar with the Square and Compass displayed thereon. The open Bible signifies that we should regulate our conduct according to its teachings because it is the rule and guide of our faith and is a symbol of man’s acknowledgment of his relation to Deity. The Square is a symbol of morality, truthfulness and honesty. To “act on the square” is to act honestly. The Compass signifies the propitious use of action and is a symbol of restraint, skill and knowledge. We might also properly regard the Compass as excluding beyond its circle that which is harmful or unworthy. The Square and Compass are recognized by the general public as the symbol of Freemasonry.

The symbolism of the square and compass is seen in many ancient carvings and artwork. A stonecutter’s square has been seen to represent the earth, while the compass has related to the arc of heaven. Thus their union has represented the union of heaven and earth. The Volume of Sacred Law can also represent God’s communication to man through scripture and inspired writings. The triple symbol can also be seen as representing God’s expression through the creation of heaven and earth.

The Three Great Lights are also consistent with the three tier system of Blue Lodge Masonry. One way of interpreting the triple symbolism is seeing human nature as divided into three parts – body, mind, and soul with a Degree for each part. In the same way, the Three Great Lights are the guiding principals of the three natures: the Square to the body, the Compass to the mind, and the Volume of Sacred Law for the soul.


The Apron is at once an emblem of innocence and the badge of a Mason. By innocence is meant clean thinking and clean living, a loyal obedience to the laws of the Craft and sincere good will one’s Brethren. The Badge of a Mason signifies, among other things, that Masons are workers and builders.

Other aspects of this most visible vesture of our Fraternity should be mentioned. The apron as a mark of distinction has been found in many similar organizations of initiatory nature including the Essenes and the Mythraic Mysteries, and has been conspicuous on statues of some Egyptian and Greek deities. The lamb has always been a symbol of innocence and sacrifice. There are two senses in which innocence is being used here. Innocence in one sense is free from moral defect. The other sense used is that of being new born.

Another consideration of the white lambskin apron is that the Sign of the Ram begins at the Spring Equinox – the time of year that life is renewed.

The Masonic Apron is made up of two parts: a square and a triangle, representing four and three respectively. The symbolism of these numbers, as well as their sum, should be studied in connection with the form of the apron in the different degrees. Finally, it should be mentioned that the word candidate comes from the Latin candidatus which means, “clothed in white.”


The Working Tools presented to the candidate were those used by the ancient operative craftsman in the erection of the building on which he was working. To the Speculative Mason, these represent the moral habits and forces by which man shapes and reshapes the essence of his human nature. By these symbolic tools, he also fits his own behavior to society and community. While they do not contain the whole philosophy of Masonry, the various Working Tools allocated to the three degrees, by their very presence, declare that there is constructive work to be done; and by their nature, indicate the direction this work is to take.

The Working Tools of this degree are specified as the twenty-four inch gauge and the common gavel. The symbolic description of these tools is provided in the ritual and the Monitor, so there is no need to repeat that here. It is interesting that one tool (gauge) is used passively and the other (gavel) is used actively. One is a tool of measurement and calculation, while the other is one of force. One tool decides what to keep, while the other gets rid of the rest.

The three parts may also be seen to represent the tripartite nature of the soul defined by Plato: the desirous, emotional, and mental. When properly cultivated, they embody the virtues temperance, fortitude, and prudence. These three virtues combined in proper order promote the supreme virtue of the whole self: equilibrium or justice.


The Northeast Corner is traditionally the place where the cornerstone (the first stone) of a building is laid. The Apprentice is thus placed, because from here he will erect his own temple by the principles of Freemasonry.

Other considerations on the northeast corner are the following. The north in Masonry is attributed to darkness and the east to light. Therefore, the northeast is a place midway between darkness and light. Being midway, it is also symbolic of equilibrium. Furthermore, this spot representing equal light and darkness corresponds with the point of the Spring Equinox when the nighttime is equal to the daytime. There is some evidence that the lambskin apron was presented to the candidate at one time in the northeast corner of the lodge.

It needs to be mentioned that there is a seeming contradiction of this symbolism with physical reality. If we imagine the lodge’s boundaries to be the eastern and western horizons, with the north and south walls being the Tropic of Cancer and Capricorn (where the sun reaches it northern and southern limits), then the day that the sun rises in the northeast corner of the “lodge” is the Summer Solstice near St. John the Baptist’s Day. Sometimes symbolism overlaps, but in many cases it is a hint at a deeper meaning.


The Lectures given to the candidate by the Worshipful Master are intended to elaborate certain phases of the ritual, giving a broader explanation of the ceremonies in order for the candidate to understand the lessons of Freemasonry. The four cardinal virtues of Temperance, Fortitude, Prudence and Justice are explained here as well as the three tenets of Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth.

The lodge is dedicated to Saint John the Baptist and Saint John the Evangelist. Freemasonry long ago chose as its patron saints John the Baptist and John the Evangelist. By doing this, the Brethren arrived at the conclusion that their patron saints belonged to a Lodge and that it must have been in the city in which they lived – Jerusalem. By this tradition, all Lodges symbolically come from one at Jerusalem. By tradition, also, every Mason hails from such a Lodge. By claiming to come from this mythical Lodge, he proves that he hails from a “just and legally constituted Lodge.”

The form of a Lodge is an oblong square, or a rectangle. It extends from East to West (horizon to horizon) and between North and South. The covering of the Lodge is the canopy of heaven. It is not a coincidence that the two major patrons of the Masonic Lodge have their birthdays near the Summer and Winter Solstices where the sun reaches its most northern and southern limits. The East in a Masonic Lodge does not necessarily mean the actual point of the compass. The East in the Lodge is the station of the Worshipful Master whence he dispenses light and instruction to all his brethren. Some Lodges may actually have the Master sitting in another compass location, but the important point is that the Master is always symbolically located in the East and the other symbolic points of the West, South and North are located in proper relation to the station of the Master. Further instruction is given in the long form of the lecture regarding the Supports of the Lodge: the three pillars of Wisdom, Strength and Beauty, which also relate to the three immovable Jewels of the Lodge: the Square, Plumb and Level, which still further relate to the three principal Officers and three Lesser Lights of the Lodge.

The three movable Jewels of the Lodge consist of the Rough and Perfect Ashlar and the Trestleboard. The Rough and Perfect Ashlars are precise symbols of the process of initiation. In a Hermetic sense, the Rough Ashlar is the prima materia, while the Perfect Ashlar is the Philosopher’s Stone. The Ornaments of the Lodge consist of the Mosaic Pavement, the Indented Tessel, and the Blazing Star. We walk in a world of opposites: good and evil, night and day, hot and cold, love and hate. The Mosaic Pavement symbolizes this fact. Again, all of these symbols should be studied further to find out what they conceal and what they reveal.


At the end of the ceremony and instruction in each degree, the candidate is charged to perform his Masonic duties. The Charge given him explains these duties especially in their relation to the particular Degree. These Charges should not be ignored as mere conventionalities.


The Proficiency is a series of questions and answers, which the candidate is required to commit to memory prior to being advanced to the next degree. Among other things, it is intended to:

(1) Teach each candidate the language of Freemasonry.

(2) Fix in his memory the teachings and structure of the Degree.

(3) Impress upon his consciousness the different points of the Obligation.

(4) Give each candidate an ancient method to contemplate the meanings behind the degree.

(5) Give the new candidate a point of contact with an established member.


Why is the language of Freemasonry so different from that which we normally use? This question is often asked by new members of our Fraternity. The Ritual of Freemasonry is a product of the early decades of the 18th century. It contains much of the language of that time period and other words and phrases from the very old work have been incorporated. This is why the language is written and spoken as it is. If the time and effort is spent to study the words of our Ritual, one will discover that the thoughts and teachings imparted cannot be put in fewer words and still retain their meaning.


The gavel in the hands of the Master of a Lodge is one of the symbols of authority by which he governs. When the gavel is sounded once in the East at the beginning of Lodge, the Brethren must come to order. Two raps call the principle Officers to their feet, and three raps mean that all Brethren must stand. If everyone is standing, one rap seats everyone in the Lodge. If the Worshipful Master addresses you by name, arise, face the East, give the due guard and sign of the degree and listen to his instructions. If you wish to speak, arise and wait until the Master recognizes you. Give the due guard and sign of the degree, and then address your remarks to him.


Sectarian religion and politics should not be addressed in Lodge, and there are good reasons for this. When we meet in a Lodge, we are all on a common level, and are not subject to the classes and distinctions of the outside world. Each Brother is entitled to his own beliefs and convictions. Our objective is to unite men, not to divide them. These subjects create honest differences of opinion that might well cause friction between brethren.

There will also be subjects concerning the Lodge’s business that should not be discussed. All deliberations should be kept within the bounds of propriety and everyone should show tolerance for the opinion of others. Every Master wants harmony in his Lodge. Once a matter has been put to vote in the Lodge and a decision is made, the decision should be accepted by all members, regardless of how they voted. We try to teach every Mason to be a good citizen and to perform his civic duties. We do not try to keep anyone from expressing his opinion or from serving his city, county, state, or nation, in an honorable manner. Anyone who serves in political office should not act politically as a Freemason, nor use the name of Freemasonry in exercising his political rights, such as showing affiliation with any Lodge in his campaign advertising.


Why is the presiding officer of the Lodge called Worshipful? This is an Old English word meaning, “worthy of respect.” Since he is chosen by the Brethren, they deem him to have sufficient wisdom, integrity and Masonic knowledge to govern the Lodge properly. Why is the Worshipful Master’s station in the East? In the world of nature, the sun rises in the East to shed light and luster on earth. In a like manner, it is the province of the Master to be the source of Masonic knowledge for his Brethren as they “approach the East in search of light.” Why does the Master wear a hat in the Lodge? He wears the hat, and the remainder of the Brethren remain uncovered, for several reasons. Keeping the head covered while others are uncovered has long been a symbol of superior rank. Men, as a mark of respect, usually uncover in the presence of those they deem to be of superior rank. Also, it is possible that the Worshipful Master wears a hat because King Solomon wore a crown as a mark of dignity. The title Master is not unlike the Master of a ship or one who has received a Masters Degree in his chosen discipline. He is capable of teaching his subject – thus imparting “light” or knowledge.


The Tiler guards the avenues approaching the Lodge. A Lodge is said to be “duly tiled” when the necessary precautions have been taken to guard against intrusion by cowans, eavesdroppers or other unauthorized persons. (A cowan is one who tries to masquerade as a Mason. He has not done the work but says he has in order to gain admittance. An eavesdropper is one who tries to steal the secrets of our Society. He would forge a dues card or may find one and try to masquerade as the owner.) If a Brother comes to Lodge late and wants to join the meeting, the Tiler sees that he is properly clothed and then vouches for him as qualified to enter. It is the duty of the Tyler to inform the Junior Deacon when a qualified Brother wishes to enter the Lodge and to let the Brethren know in which Degree the Lodge is working.


There is no place for horseplay or hazing during our ceremonies, and the candidate can be assured that there will be none. The rituals are serious and solemn, and we try to teach moral lessons with great dignity. Anything which is told to the candidate in a joking manner serves only to desecrate the honorable purposes of Freemasonry. The candidate should have no apprehension about entering a Lodge. He is always entering a society of friends and brothers where he will be treated with dignity and decorum at all times.


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


An Entered Apprentice Mason has very few actual Lodge responsibilities. He must keep secret everything entrusted to him, conduct himself with proper decorum and diligently work to learn his proficiency and as much about the Craft as possible. He should not be content with learning the words letter-perfect, but should study the meanings also. If he cannot interpret these for himself, he should seek help from others. Complete faithfulness to his obligations and implicit obedience to the charge are among his important and lasting responsibilities. Freemasonry preserves a secrecy about all its work in the Lodge: it meets behind closed doors; it throws over its principles and teachings a garment of symbolism and ritual; its Art is a mystery; a great wall separates it from the world. Nor is its work easy to understand. If this be true, we urgently advise you not to be content with the letter and outward form of this, your beginning period, but to apply yourself with freedom, fervency and zeal to the sincere and thorough mastering of our Royal Art.

Fellowcraft Degree


In one sense the Fellowcraft Degree symbolizes the stage of adulthood and responsibility during a man’s life on earth. In this stage, his task is to acquire knowledge and apply it to the building of his character and improving the society in which he lives. As the father of our Masonic lectures, William Preston saw Masonry as a means to educate men in the liberal arts and sciences. A Fellowcraft Mason is urged to advance his education in these fields during the ritual of this Degree.

Some view the three grade system of Blue Lodge Masonry as representing a progressive teaching directed toward perfecting human nature. It is a simple and straightforward view of human nature divided into three parts: body, mind and soul. Each Degree addresses and instructs one part. The First Degree encompasses the body and our faculties of action in the world. The four cardinal virtues are extolled as the proper guides to our action in the world that we may perfect our relation to it. The Second Degree addresses the mind and its faculties. We are instructed in the Seven Liberal Arts and Sciences which were formulated hundreds of years ago in order to develop and perfect the mental nature. The intention was to prepare the mind for spiritual truths. The Third Degree confers the central Mystery of Freemasonry; that is, how the soul may be brought to its perfection.

If we accept the view of Masonry purpose given above, then it is obvious that the Fellowcraft Degree encompasses much more than just gaining a normal and broad-based education. The teachings of this Degree are extremely profound and surprisingly exact.


The symbolism of the Entered Apprentice Degree emphasized beginnings, spiritual birth, the first steps and youth, orientation to the Light, which are all consistent with a rite of induction into the Fraternity. The Second Degree of Fellowcraft symbolizes the methods of developing and progressing in the Craft; and, in a sense, the emergence into spiritual manhood. Therefore we find symbols of advancement, passage, instruction and elevation throughout this Degree. We find symbolism of taking the next step and a new way of approaching the East. What was considered in the last Degree to be our weaker nature has now been squared and elevated. While keeping our fidelity to the Three Great Lights, we deepen our connection with the Fraternity and take on new commitments.

Our Working Tools are now testing instruments. With them we try, square and prove. With them we learn to develop the faculty of judgment: what is valuable, what is true, what is real.

The central motif of this Degree being one of advancement we are presented with the symbol of the Winding Staircase consisting of so many steps and leading to the Middle Chamber of the Temple. Staircases, ladders, extended vertical ropes, and mountains are all symbols of ascending to new heights.

Gaining entrance to a new place symbolizes a distinct advancement in our work as Freemasons. Attaining this level gives us access to certain benefits that we were not entitled to before. These benefits are symbolized by Corn, Wine, and Oil. There are other things granted here as well. We become invested with the ability to hear the teachings of our Fraternity and keep them close to our heart. Finally, we are reminded of our central focus in the symbolism of the letter and the humility it should inspire.


At the outset of this Degree, it should be clear to the candidate that although much of it seems familiar, it is also very different, and some aspects even seem to be in opposition to the previous Degree. There are certain avenues of further exploration that should be brought out here. We are usually given an explanation for most parts of the ritual in the various lectures. Some seem to allude to deeper interpretations. As we prepare to enter the Mysteries of Freemasonry certain things should be kept in mind. For example, the number three keeps emerging in the rituals in one way or another. Geometrically, three is the triangle. And in fact, there are three kinds of triangle the equilateral triangle (all three sides equal), the isosceles triangle (two sides equal), and the scalene triangle (no sides equal).

Many of the mythological gods or heroes that were smiths or artificers for the gods were lame. For example the Roman god Vulcan and the Greek god Hephaestus. Vulcan was crippled as a result of being thrown down to earth. He is usually depicted with tools as he is patron of craftsmen. Scalene in one sense means unequal and used in another means limping. The most celebrated scalene triangle is of course the 3-4-5 right triangle which is of special concern to Freemasons. We will cover this more fully in our discussion of the Master Mason Degree. There is an interesting story by the Roman poet Virgil in his epic The Aeneid that is highly suggestive. In Book IV he writes about Queen Dido who, because of her despair and anguish, commits to sacrificing herself. She performs various rites in preparation of that supreme moment and finally: Dido herself with consecrated grain in her pure hands, as she went near the altars, freed one foot from sandal straps, let fall her dress ungirdled, and, now sworn to death, called on the gods and stars that knew her fate. It is also noteworthy that she was supposed to be of Tyrian origin.bsp;

There is a Byzantine painting known as “Our Lady of Perpetual Help,” which pictures the divine child in his mothers’ arms. Angels are shown at either side with implements of the Crucifixion. The child is turning towards an angel, and one of his shoes is falling off.


In addition to the rights you acquired as an Entered Apprentice Mason, you have the right to sit in a Lodge when opened in the Fellowcraft Degree, when accompanied by a Master Mason who has sat in Lodge with you. You may visit another Lodge opened in the Fellowcraft Degree. You have the right to be instructed and examined. If found proficient, you may request advancement to the next degree.

The responsibilities are found in part in the Obligation, and you should review these along with the Obligation of the Entered Apprentice. Finally, you are reminded that you are to acquire the special knowledge introduced in this Degree and seek to apply that knowledge to your duties in life so you can occupy your place in society with satisfaction and honor.



The Square is the symbol of morality, truthfulness and honesty. The direction of the two sides of the Square form an angle of 90°, or a right angle, so-called because this is the angle which stones must have if they are to be used to build a stable and upright wall. It symbolizes accuracy, not even varying by a single degree. When we part upon the Square, we go in different directions, but in full knowledge that our courses in life will be going according to the angle of the Square (which means in the right direction), until we meet again.


The Level is a symbol of equality. We do not mean equality in wealth, social distinction, civic office, or service to mankind; but, rather, we refer to the internal, and not the external, qualifications. Each person is endowed with a worth and dignity which is spiritual, and should not be subject to man-made distinctions. Masonry recognizes that one man may have greater potential in life, service, or reward, than another; but, we also believe that any man can aspire to any height, no matter how great. Thus, the Level dignifies labor and the man who performs it. It also acknowledges that all men are equal without regard to station. The Level also symbolizes the passage of time.


The Plumb is a symbol of uprightness of conduct. In Freemasonry, it is associated with the plumb line which the Lord promised Amos he would set in the midst of His people, Israel, symbolizing God’s standard of divine righteousness. The plumb line in the midst of a people should mean that they will be judged by their own sense of right and wrong, and not by the standards of others. By understanding the Plumb, a Mason is to judge his Brothers by their own standards and not those of someone else. When the plumb line is thought of in this way, it becomes a symbol of an upright life and of the conscience by which each person must live. This idea is closely tied to the concept of Justice. For, in truth, Justice is giving another man his due.



Two pillars were placed at the entrance to King Solomon’s Temple, which are symbolically represented within every Masonic Lodge. These pillars are symbols of strength and establishment – and by implication, power and control. One must remember that power and control are placed before you, so you might realize that power without control is anarchy, or that control without power is futility. Man must have both if his life is to be successful.

The construction of dual pillars, obelisks, sphinxes and so on was not uncommon in the ancient Near East. It is not known what their exact symbolism was. Speculation ranges from their signifying duality (that duality or polarity are twin forces throughout Creation), guardianship of the temple, symbolic gateways, to the idea of being a connection between heaven and earth.

Some researchers have thought that the two pillars before Solomon’s Temple represented the Pillar of Cloud and the Pillar of Fire which led the Israelites through the desert to the Promised Land. It was their guide in the light as well as in the dark.

The globes on the columns are said to be the celestial and terrestrial spheres representing heaven and earth.

The two pillars also correspond to the Three Great Supports of Masonry. The columns of Wisdom and Strength are emblematically represented by the pillars in the South and North, respectively. The candidate, as he is brought into the Lodge, comes to represent the third column of Beauty or Balance.


As we mentioned before, the Winding Staircase is a symbol of ascension. It is described as consisting of three, five, and seven steps. The number of steps has changed over the years. Sometimes there were only five and at others seven. Preston listed thirty-six, dividing them into one, three, five, seven, nine and eleven. The Hemming lectures listed the number at twenty-five. American Masonry has kept to fifteen. Note the connection between this number and the number of Fellowcrafts in the Third Degree.

Much of the symbolism of the Winding Staircase is explained in the ritual itself. There are some points to bring out that may lead one to further research and insight.

The significance of the number three has already been mentioned. We have the three Degrees, the Three Great Lights, the three Columns, the three Officers, the Three Grand Masters and the three Principle Tenets of Freemasonry. What we want to emphasize here is the Three Theological Virtues: Faith, Hope, and Charity. These virtues were considered a ladder to heaven, another symbol of ascent. The Four Cardinal Virtues presented in the First Degree compliment these in the sense that the Four are symbolically horizontal (basically dealing with our actions here on earth) while the Three are symbolically vertical (referring to our method of ascent to further light). Our Aprons are composite examples of the Three and the Four making Seven.

The Five Steps are also explained in some detail. A few points for further consideration concern the symbolism of the number five. The geometrical symbol of five is, of course, the pentagram. The emblem of Pythagoras’ fraternity was the five-pointed star. At each point of the star was a Greek letter which all together spelled a Greek word meaning “health” (ugitha). The pentagram is a symbol of the Microcosm, that is, Man.

Another avenue to explore is the ratio of the column height to diameter. They are approximately: Tuscan 1/7; Doric 1/8; Ionic 1/9; Corinthian and Composite 1/10. It is also worth studying which order of architecture was used to build a particular type of temple. The Parthenon on the Acropolis, dedicated to Athena, is Doric, as is her temple at Delphi. The Ephesian temple of Diana, a moon goddess, is Ionic. The importance of the compass to the Ionic Order is also worthy of study.

The Seven Steps symbolize the Seven Liberal Arts and Sciences. These were formulated as early as 330 CE. The Christian scholars adopted them soon afterwards and we find their full flowering at the Neo-platonic Cathedral School of Chartres in 12th Century France. The interesting work that came together here was the union of the philosophies of Neo-platonism and Christianity. The study of the Seven Liberal Arts was considered a means to the knowledge of God. This principle was actually expressed in the construction of the Gothic Cathedral of Chartres. We even find for the first time sculpted representations of the Seven Liberal Arts on the West Door of the Cathedral.

The Masters of Chartres taught that the proper study of the Seven Liberal Arts guided the intellect to approach the hidden light behind the world. The invisible underlying structure of Reality, the Truth, could be apprehended in this way. As another matter of interest, it was in the mid-thirteenth century that the humble mason who had mastered the Seven Liberal Arts was entitled to the designation of architect.


The passage from the Outer Porch to the Middle Chamber represents a definite step in the journey to enlightenment. The wages received in the Middle Chamber come as a result of achieving this distinction. Remember that the candidate had to first ascend the Winding Staircase in order to gain admission. The Fellowcraft must become proficient in the Seven Liberal Arts. A regular study of the subjects is demanded to gain admission to the outer doors leading to this Middle Chamber. It is when the initiate begins to perceive the synthetic vision of this Masonic education and a special intuition begins to dawn within his mind and conscience that he knows the inner doors are opening to that Chamber within. Outside, the candidate was shown a symbol of plenty, but here it has been established in fact.


Corn, Wine, and Oil are symbolic wages earned by the Fellowcraft Mason who arrives at the Middle Chamber. These symbolize wealth in mental and spiritual worlds. Corn represents nourishment and the sustenance of life. It is also a symbol of plenty, and refers to the opportunity for doing good, to work for the community, and to the performance of service to mankind. The Corn referred to in this Degree is actually what we call wheat.

Wine is symbolic of refreshment, health, spirituality, and peace. Oil represents joy, gladness and happiness. Taken together, Corn, Wine, and Oil represent the temporal rewards of living a good life.

The actual “wages” are the intangible but no less real compensation for a faithful and intelligent use of the Working Tools, fidelity to your obligations, and unflagging interest in and study of the structure, purpose and possibilities of the Fraternity. Such wages may be defined in terms of a deeper understanding of brotherhood, a clearer conception of ethical living, a broader toleration, and a more resolute will to think justly, independently, and honestly.

Corn or grain has also represented the concept of resurrection. Wine has symbolized mystical attainments, divine intoxication and ecstasy. Oil is one of the elements of consecration. Perfumed oil was used to anoint.


Why the letter “G” is so prominently displayed in Masonic lodges is an enigma to Masonic historians. Like the sphinx before the pyramids, it stands before us in silence and mystery. It is not consistently displayed throughout the Masonic world and there are Masonic scholars who feel it should be removed. The reason that it is so displayed is plainly given to the candidate in this Degree. We are told that it is the initial of Geometry as well as the initial of the name of the Supreme Being. From the time of the “Old Charges” and manuscripts up to the present, the synonymous nature of Geometry and Masonry is clearly stated. It is also obvious that “G” is the initial of God. This alone may be sufficient reason for its presence.

There are other considerations that the Masonic student might want to take into account. The immediate question for some may be why is Geometry given such exalted status? One might also observe that the word “God” is not a name per se, but is a category of being – like “human being”. The name of the Supreme Being depends on what tradition a person follows, and it would not be incorrect to say that the True Name of the Supreme Being cannot be known. Obviously, then, the letter “G” does not refer to the common usage of that term.

These two issues have given rise to much speculation regarding the focus given to this one letter of the alphabet. We will offer a few of these speculations for your benefit.

The ancient languages of Phoenician, Hebrew and Greek all placed the “G” in the third place. In Hebrew, the order is aleph, beth, gimel. In Greek, the order is alpha, beta, gamma and so on. The Phoenician/Hebrew letter gimel means camel. There is an interesting passage in the Gospel of St. Matthewregarding our patron John the Baptist: “And the same John had his raiment of camel’s hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins.” (Matt 3:4) In both Hebrew and Greek, each letter is assigned a numerical value as well as a phonetic one, so that “G” is equivalent to the number “3” in both languages. The Greek letter gamma looks like an upside down “L”. It is two perpendicular lines forming the angle of a square. Gamma is also associated with Dionysus and resurrection.

The importance of Geometry to a full understanding of Freemasonry becomes apparent to the candidate as he progresses through the degrees. He is unequivocally informed that Geometry is the basis or foundation of Masonry. A full explanation for this importance is not forthcoming, just that it is very important to undertake the study. We would suggest that the Masonic student might follow some of the following lines of research, that he may come to his own conclusions.

>It is thought that the Egyptians became skilled at surveying because the annual flooding of the Nile obliterated boundary markers in their fields. They had to set out and calculate new boundaries each year. The Greeks named this skill Geometry, or “earth measurement.” Empirical generalizations were derived, presumably, from their experience in field measurement. The Greeks, it is thought, made the advancement of using deductive logic to expand the knowledge into a theoretical science, and Pythagoras is credited with this achievement. This actually set the groundwork for the development of the sciences. So we may consider Geometry the first science.

Pythagoras and his Society, and later, Plato and his Academy, raised Geometry to a sacred science of discovering the nature of reality and through it the Deity. We have such statements from Plato as: “Geometry rightly treated is the knowledge of the eternal.” And also: “Geometry must ever tend to draw the soul towards the truth.” Later, Euclid systemically presented all the knowledge of Geometry in his work Elements of Geometry, beginning with five unproved principles about lines, angles, and figures, which he called postulates. Euclid uses only the compass and straight edge for all the drawings, proofs, and solutions.

There are some Masonic researchers who think that the letter “G” represents a little known method of Biblical interpretation known as gematria. One of the earliest known references to this method is found about 200 CE in the Bariatha of R. Eliezer ben R. Jose, the Galiean, which is a collection of 32 rabbinical rules. Gematria is listed within this treatise as a rabbinical method of biblical exegesis. As already mentioned, the Hebrew and Greek alphabets were also used as numbers. Therefore, every Hebrew word and every Greek word is the sum of the value of the individual letters. Exploring this technique of letter-number substitution, one looks for words, names, and phrases that add up to like values. Like values are thought to have meaningful relationships. For example, the Hebrew word for “heaven” (ha-shamayim) has the same gematria value as the word for “soul” (neshamah); that is, 395, derived by adding up each letter to arrive at a total. The Qabalist would say this means that the soul is identical with heaven.

Another example of gematria can be found by comparing the Hebrew words for “love” (ahebah) and “unity” (echad), both of which add to 13. Combining the values of these two words gives us 26, the number of the Hebrew word rendered in English as Jehovah, the principal Name of God. This is a clear intimation that the nature of God can be understood as Love and Unity.

This exegetical technique can be used with both the Hebrew scriptures and the Greek Christian scriptures. There are other texts that have been found to contain hidden gematria in Latin and Arabic, as well. From the practice of gematria have arisen extremely interesting techniques, which reveal a type of spiritual Geometry hidden within the Scriptures.


The great teachings of this Degree revolve around the importance of the Masonic study of number, order, symmetry and proportion. The Masonic use of the term Geometry includes all of these. Nature is the true temple of the Deity. If this is so, then cosmic and natural laws are like the Trestleboard. These laws are discovered in the practice of the Seven Arts (they were called liberal arts because their practice liberated the mind). The ancient philosophers considered Geometry to have the power to lead the mind from the world of appearances to the contemplation of the divine order. Further study would most certainly include a detailed study of Pythagorean number philosophy, the Golden Mean, Plato’s work, the Neoplatonists, and Qabalistic gematria.

Master Mason Degree


This Degree is the crown of the Blue Lodge. It is the culmination of all that has been taught to the candidate in the two preceding ceremonies. At this point the candidate has symbolically, if not actually, balanced his inner natures and has shaped them into the proper relationship with the higher, more spiritual parts of himself. His physical nature has been purified and developed to a high degree. He has developed stability and a sure footing. His mental faculties have sharpened and his horizons have been expanded. The candidate is now ready to approach the portal of the Sublime Degree of Master Mason.

The above would be the ideal scenario, but is rarely carried out so seriously. However, regardless of the candidate’s pace through the Degrees, he should always review his personal progress and take action to improve himself in Masonry. He should not be satisfied with taking the Degrees halfheartedly and then consider himself a Master Mason. Very few of us are truly Masters of our Craft, and we should maintain a healthy deference for this exalted status. For the designation Master Mason should always be before us in our journey toward the Light as the ideal of our Fraternity.

Being “Raised to the Sublime Degree” is the appropriate terminology. Sublime is defined as being exalted or elevated so as to inspire awe and wonder. And it also means to undergo sublimation that, like distillation, requires a volatilization of a substance that rises and reforms at a higher level. The significance of this Degree is the portrayal of the removal of everything that keeps us from rising to that state where the soul communes with the Supernal Light.


The candidate enters the Lodge of the Master Mason in darkness, for he has not witnessed the Light at this Degree before. But the difference of this entrance from that of the others is that he is now in a state of equilibrium and is prepared to walk on sacred ground. He becomes fully committed to the Fraternity and completely puts his faith on the Three Great Lights. The initiate is given full use of every working tool, but the one tool exalted above the others from this point on is the one that symbolizes the spreading of brotherly love.

After ceremonies in the first section which seem quite familiar, the candidate partakes of the central Mystery Drama of our Fraternity. The very nature of participating in this rite and assuming the role of the Grand Master Hiram Abiff is to forge a link with the inner soul of our Fraternity. And as our legend is completely and absolutely consistent with some of the august Mystery Schools of antiquity, we are communing with the archetypal forces that are the foundation of our tradition. And at least in some small way, we may momentarily forget who we were when we entered the Holy of Holies and realize who we really are.

The symbolism that we encounter in this Degree can be traced back for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Some of it is almost identical with very ancient usage, but most of it has taken on the cultural flavor of its successive conveyors. We will try to rediscover the hidden meaning of some of these symbols.


The Working Tools of a Master Mason are “all the instruments of Masonry.” In the United States, the Trowel is especially assigned to this Degree. The Master Mason uses the Trowel to cement ties between Masons, and to spread Brotherly Love.

It may be remembered that this Degree is specifically related to the soul and, as such, the Trowel being the symbol of love is specifically related to the soul’s relation with Spirit. Although all the tools are available to the Master Mason, it is the Trowel with which he must now work.

It should be remembered that tools have always aligned us with the creative and builder spirit within us.


Hiram Abiff, the skilled artificer, was the Son of a Widow of the Tribe of Naphtali. The earlier accounts of Hiram are recorded in the 1st Book of Kings, 7:13 & 14. His coming to work on the great Temple at Jerusalem is mentioned in a letter written to King Solomon by Hiram, the King of Tyre, and recorded in II Chronicles, 2:13 & 14. The word Abiff is believed to mean “his father”, and the name is often translated as “Hiram, my father”. He was regarded as the father of the workmen on the Temple. One of the lessons of the legend of Hiram Abiff is that of fidelity to one’s highest ideals.

Hiram Abiff is, in essence, identical with many of the Mystery School heroes. The drama of the Egyptian god Osiris began with his tragic death, the search for his body by Isis, its discovery and restoration. The Greek god Dionysus was attacked by the Titans. In the course of the fight he went through many transformations but was finally overcome. The Titans dismembered him, but in due time the goddess Rhea came to his aid and he rose glorious and entire. This formula is ancient. It is the concept of the sacred king, who in many instances is lame (which signifies his dedication), and is destined for sacrifice, that the earth might become regenerated and uplifted by divine power.

Regarding Hiram as the “Son of the Widow,” there are a few things to mention. The Egyptian god Horus, as the child of Isis and Osiris, was also the son of a widow. Hermes Trismegistus called the stone “orphan.” There seems to be a Manichaean origin to the terms “son of the widow” and “children of the widow”. The Manichaeans were called “children of the widow”. Etymologically, the word individual is related to the word widow. Vidua, Latin for widow, derives from the verb videre, meaning “to part.”


The three Grand Masters mentioned often in our rituals concerning the building of the Temple are: Solomon, King of Israel; Hiram, King of Tyre; and Hiram Abiff. In early times, some religions regarded Deity in three aspects. The secrets known only to these Three Grand Masters typify Divine Truth, which was known only to Deity, and was not to be communicated to man until he had completed his own spiritual temple. Once these secrets were attained, a man could reap the rewards of a well-spent life, and travel to the unknown country toward which all of us are traveling. By knowing the meaning of these names and references to their offices, you will better understand what the ritual means. Tyre, by the way, means stone or rock.


The goal of our ancient operative brethren was to become masters, so they might posses those secrets which would enable them to practice the art of the builder, no matter where they traveled, even in foreign countries.

The term “foreign countries” is used symbolically in Speculative Masonry, and is not meant to refer to a certain geographical location. Freemasonry itself is a foreign country to every new member. To fully appreciate and enjoy the privileges of membership, he must become familiar with its territory. He does this by learning its language, customs, and history.

Once Raised, many of our members continue their journey into the inner recesses of the Craft. This can be a most rewarding experience. Truly, Freemasonry is the journey of a lifetime. We must continue to search for light and truth where ever it may be found, even in foreign countries.

The term “foreign countries” may also be a metaphor for the spiritual worlds. The ancients, and some not-so-ancients, concerned themselves with vast spiritual worlds. Their method of gaining admission was through secret passwords, grips, signs, and sometimes angelic names and holy words.


There are many symbolic explanations for the appearance of these three ruffians in our ritualistic work. Their attempt to obtain the secrets not rightfully theirs, and the dire consequences of their actions, are symbolic of many things. Trying to obtain knowledge of Divine Truth by some means other than a reward for faithfulness, makes the culprit both a thief and a murderer. Each of us is reminded that rewards must be earned, rather than obtained by violence or devious means. The Ruffians are also symbolic of the enemies we have within us: our own ignorance, passions and attitudes, which we have “come here to control and subdue”.


In ancient symbolism, the number twelve denoted completion. This sign arose from the twelve signs of the Zodiac being a complete circle and the twelve edges of the cube being a symbol of the earth. The number twelve denoted fulfillment of a deed, and was therefore an emblem of human life. High Twelve corresponds noon, with the sun at its zenith, while Low Twelve denotes midnight, the blackest time of the night.


The lion has always been the symbol of might and royalty. It was the sign of the Tribe of Judah, because this was the royal tribe of the Hebrew Nation. All Kings of Judah were, therefore, called the “Lion of the Tribe of Judah.” This was also one of the titles of King Solomon. This was the literal meaning.

In the Middle Ages, the lion was a symbol of resurrection. There were common tales that the lion cub when born lay dead for three days until breathed upon by its father. This breath brought the cub back to life. Representations of roaring lions symbolized the resurrection of the dead on the Last Day. The lion, being such a majestic animal, has long been considered the “king” of beasts; associated with the sun because of its mane. Its likeness is commonly found on the thrones and palaces of rulers. The Mithraic god Aion had a human body with a lion’s head.

Because of its association with the sun and its correspondence to the zodiacal sign of Leo, the Lion is also considered a symbol of alchemical Fire.


In the search for “That Which Was Lost,” we are not actually searching for a particular word. Our search is a symbol for our “feeling of loss” or “exile” from the Source of Life. What we are searching for is Divine Truth, which should be the ultimate goal of all men and Masons.

The Book of Genesis gives us a clue to the power of speech. In it, we learn that the first Act of Creation occurred when “God said.” The utterance of the Word is also closely connected with the idea of Light, and therefore knowledge. Having the power of speech is perhaps the noblest attribute of man, because he can communicate his thoughts to his fellows. Thus, The Word has been carried down through the ages as synonymous with every manifestation of Divine Power and Truth. We must always search diligently for truth, and never permit prejudice, passions, or conflicts of interest, to hinder us in our search. We must keep our minds open to receiving truth from any source. Thus, Masons are devoted to freedom of thought, speech and action. In our Craft Lodges, we have but a substitute for the True Word. Each person must ultimately seek out and find the True Word for himself, through his own individual efforts.

Some Masons feel that the names of the Ruffians give us a blatant hint at the Lost Word. Indeed, there is an allusion to the sacred syllable of the Vedic texts found in these names. But again, that word is itself a symbol of the underlying Reality that upholds and sustains the world. Some Masons feel that the Lost Word is spoken of in the scriptures variously as “the sound of rushing waters” and “I heard behind me a Voice like a great trumpet,” or “a great roar like a lion” and such.


This was a wooden instrument used by operative masons to set polished stone firmly into a wall. The Maul has been shown to be a symbol of destruction from prehistoric times, and is shown many times in mythology. One of the best known is that of Thor, God of Thunder, who is shown as a powerful man armed with a mighty hammer.


Hebrew people used to plant a sprig of acacia at the head of a grave for two purposes – to mark the location of the grave, and to show their belief in immortality. Because of its evergreen nature, they believed it to be an emblem of both immortality and innocence. The true acacia is a thorny plant, which abounds in the Middle East. Both Jews and Egyptians believed that because of its hardness, its evergreen nature and its durability, it signified immortality. It is believed that the acacia was used to construct most of the furniture and the tabernacle in the Temple. Acacia has red and white flowers. It is a tradition in the Near East that the Crown of Thorns was acacia. In Egypt, it symbolized rebirth and was an emblem of Neith.


Most people do not understand what being “Raised to the Sublime Degree of Master Mason” means. This Degree is the sublime climax of Symbolic Freemasonry. If you learn only that the living, dying and raising of a Master is a drama, designed to teach the virtues of fidelity, faith and fortitude, you have received only partial light and have seen nothing but a moral lesson. This Degree seeks to answer the age-old question put forth by Job – “If a man die, shall he live again?”.

The Degree delves into the deepest recesses of man’s nature. While it leads the initiate into the Sanctum Sanctorum of the Temple, it probes into the Holy of Holies in his heart. As a whole, the Degree is symbolic of old age and by the wisdom of which we may enjoy the happy reflections consequent on a well-spent and properly directed life, and die in the sure knowledge of a glorious immortality.

It teaches no creed, no dogma, no doctrine, no religion; only, that there is immortality.


The system of Traditional Jewish Mysticism known as Qabalah often provides important clues to the interpretation of passages of Scripture. Since much of our ritual is derived from Scripture, there are certain very interesting Qabalistic allusions throughout the rituals of Freemasonry.

We will here list only one of the more interesting occurrences, without reference to either Hebrew or Greek. However, some familiarity with these languages can be useful when searching for Qabalistic allusions within Freemasonry.

Using the Qabalistic discipline of gematria, the Hebrew spelling of Hiram Abiff equals the number 273. So does the Hebrew word for “Hidden Light”. And the phrase found in Psalms 118:22 “the stone refused by the builders” also adds up to 273. Sometimes Gematria can cross languages, too. For example, the Greek word athanasia, which means “immortality,” also equals 273. From the standpoint of gematria, the message could not be clearer.


In The Three Pillars we have the three great supports of Masonry – Wisdom, Strength and Beauty. The Three Steps remind us of how youth, manhood and old age is each an entity in itself, each possessing its own duties and problems, and each calling for its own philosophy. The Pot of Incense teaches that, to be pure and blameless in our inner lives is more acceptable to God than anything else, because that which a man really is, is of vastly greater importance than that which he appears to be. It is also a symbol of prayer and meditation. The Beehive recommends the virtue of industry and teaches us that we should never rest while our fellow creatures are in need of assistance. It should be mentioned that bees have also been symbols of messengers from the heavens. The Book of Constitutions Guarded By The Tyler’s Sword is the emblem of law and order, and reminds us that our moral and spiritual character is grounded in law and morality as much as is government and nature. It teaches that no man can live a satisfactory life who lives lawlessly. The Sword Pointing To A Naked Heart symbolizes that one of the most rigorous of these laws is justice, and that if a man be unjust in his heart, the inevitable results of injustice will find him out. The All Seeing Eye shows that we live and move and have our being in God; that we are constantly in His Presence, wherever or whatever we are doing. The single Eye is found in many countries from Egypt to India: The Eye of Horus, the Eye of Shiva and so on. The Anchor and Ark stand for that sense of security and stability of a life grounded in truth and faith, without which sense there can be no happiness.

The Forty-Seventh Problem of Euclid, or the Pythagorean Theorem, is a very potent symbol and is so important in Freemasonry that it cannot be overemphasized. It is the Sacred King of the scalene (limping) triangles. Its properties have incredible implications in many different areas. Plutarch informs us that the Egyptians attributed the holy family of Osiris, Isis, and Horus to this specific triangle: Osiris the vertical (3), Isis the horizontal (4), and Horus the diagonal(5). Remember that after Osiris is killed, Horus becomes the Son of the Widow.

In The Hourglass we have the emblem of the fleeting quality of life. The Scythe reminds us that the passing of time will end our lives as well as our work, and if ever we are to become what we ought to be, we must not delay.


These consist of Masonic Relief, Masonic Visitation, and Masonic Burial.


Masonic Relief may be applied for by any Master Mason – either to his own Lodge, or to an individual Master Mason. In every case, the individual asked has the right to determine the worthiness of the request and whether such aid can be granted without material injury to his family. Relief is a voluntary function of both the Lodge and the individual. If the Lodge’s financial condition will not allow it to help, he can apply to the Grand Lodge for help. In order to be eligible for Masonic Relief, the Brother must not have been suspended in the past five years, and there can be no charges pending against him at the time of application. The widow and/or orphan of a Master Mason, who was a member of the Lodge at the time of his death, are entitled to consideration if they apply for assistance. The same conditions as to worthiness and the ability and willingness of the Lodge apply in these cases.


Visitation of other Lodges is one of the greatest privileges of being a Master Mason. Before you can sit in another Lodge, you must prove yourself to be a Mason in good standing. If you can so prove, and if no member of the Lodge you are visiting objects to you sitting in the Lodge, you may do so. In order to attend another Lodge, you should learn the memory work and modes of recognition in each Degree (if you have not already done so), and carry your paid-up dues card with you at all times.

You can gain admission to another Lodge in one of two ways – examination or avouchment by a Brother who has sat in Lodge with you previously. An examination usually consists of showing your dues card, followed by examination by a special committee appointed by the Master of the Lodge. After successfully passing the examination, the committee will vouch for you and you may be admitted to the Lodge.


The Masonic Funeral Service is conducted only at the request of a Brother or some member of a Mason’s immediate family. The choice belongs to the family, not to the Lodge. This service can be held in a church, the Lodge room, funeral parlor or grave site. It is a beautiful and solemn ceremony and, like Masonry herself, does not conflict with a man’s personal religious beliefs.


The constant responsibility of a Master Mason is “to preserve the reputation of the Fraternity unsullied”. Leading a good life is the best means of carrying through our individual responsibility to our Lodge and our Craft. The conduct of each Master Mason is strictly his own responsibility. He should choose the course which will bring credit to himself and honor to the Fraternity.

We would all do well to remember that brotherhood is the cornerstone of our Fraternity. Treat others with the same respect and consideration with which you would like to be treated. In all your actions, be an example of brotherly love in action.

Be not hasty to condemn others. How do you know that in their place, you could have resisted the temptation? And even were it so, why should you condemn one who is weaker than you? If your brother should slip, offer your hand to him without judgement or harsh criticism. Judge him not by your standards but by his own.


We do not have a mandatory attendance requirement as ancient Lodges did; nor is there a penalty for not attending, as there once was. However, every Master Mason has an obligation to be loyal to the Lodge which gave him Masonic Light and all the benefits which come with his membership. This should be your inducement to attend Lodge as often as possible and to join in the fellowship that is an important part of Freemasonry.


Only Members in good standing have a right to vote. No member present can be excused from balloting on any petition before the Lodge. No member will be permitted to retire from the Lodge to avoid casting his ballot. The white balls indicate an affirmative, or favorable ballot, and the black cube indicates a negative, or unfavorable ballot. If you have no reason to believe otherwise, then you should accept the word of the Investigating Committee and cast a favorable ballot on a petition for membership. If you have an objection to an applicant, the time to raise that objection is before the ballot is taken. You have the right to speak to the Master privately and express your objection. This is one of the reasons we wait a full month after a petition has been presented before voting on it. However, if you know of some legitimate reason why the petitioner is unworthy, for strictly Masonic – not personal – reasons, a black cube may be cast to protect the Lodge from an undesirable member.

As you approach the ballot box, examine your motives and be sure that the ballot you are about to cast will do justice to the candidate and Freemasonry. The Right to Secrecy of the Ballot is guaranteed by Masonic law, and custom allows each member to have perfect freedom in balloting on petitioners. No brother should disclose how he voted and no brother should inquire into how another brother voted on a particular candidate.


In the jurisdiction of California, non-age refers in this Degree to one who is not yet 21 years of age. Dotage is a condition associated with old age, and is marked by juvenile desires, loss of memory and failure of judgement. Being old does not bar someone from seeking membership, but we require that he be mentally alert and healthy. A fool is a mature man without good sense. Legally, he may be of age, but mentally he is incapable of understanding.


The question of women’s role in Freemasonry has arisen many times. When we were an operative craft, the buildings were built by masons who were, by all accounts, men. The Craft became a fraternity for men. Thus, it was a practice that only men became operative masons. This practice has continued down through the years.

Women are certainly included in the Family of Freemasonry through Concordant Bodies, such as the Order of the Eastern Star, the Order of Amaranth, and so on.


This responsibility belongs to the Lodge itself and is delegated by the Master to a committee of Brethren who are to satisfy themselves that the visitor is a Master Mason in good standing in a regular and recognized Lodge. The Master may call upon any member of the Lodge to serve on the examining committee.

It should ever be remembered that the purpose of examination is to prove that a visitor is a Mason, not to prove that he is not a Mason. Kindness and courtesy should be shown to all visitors at all times.


Before endorsing the petition of anyone for initiation into our Mysteries, you should take the time to discuss Masonry with the applicant. You should know why he wishes to become a Mason, what he expects and what may be expected of him. The Investigating Committee should explain much of this to him, but you should be satisfied with his understanding and know that he is of good moral character. The signing of the petition should be a source of great pleasure for you.

You should also remember that signing the petition of a man who wishes to become a Freemason is a significant responsibility. By doing so, you are committing to assist him to learn and grow as a Mason. Nor does your responsibility end when he has been Raised. From the moment your sponsor his petition, you are bound to him by a strong tie.


This responsibility belongs to every member of the Lodge, and should not be taken lightly. Serving on an Investigating Committee should be regarded as a mark of special trust by the Master of your Lodge. It is a solemn responsibility. Only those who can be counted on to make a complete and impartial inquiry into the petitioner’s character and determine his worthiness to become a Mason, should be selected. The members of the Investigating Committee are known only to the petitioner and to the Master who appointed them.


Your financial responsibilities are twofold. The first is in the area of mandatory support – the payment of annual dues. The second is in the area of voluntary contributions to certain charities, distressed worthy Brothers, and other Masonic organizations as you desire. By paying dues, each Brother carries his share of the expenses to run his Lodge. Regarding voluntary financial support, he must determine the extent of his participation, measuring the need against his ability.

Any member failing to pay his dues for a period of more than twelve months is subject to suspension. There is no reason a Brother should be suspended for non-payment of dues. Not being able to pay dues can be handled easily and without embarrassment. No Lodge desires to suspend a Brother who is unable to continue payment of dues. A distressed Brother should inform the Master or the Secretary of his situation. One of these Officers will take care of the situation so no record is shown on the books and no debt is accumulated. This is not Masonic Charity, but rather Brotherly Love. In most cases, the other Brethren in the Lodge know nothing about his situation.


Although Entered Apprentices are considered Masons in every sense of the word, one does not become a member of a Lodge until after being Raised. Termination of membership can occur in one of four ways – demit, suspension, expulsion or death. One can apply for a demit (or transfer to another Lodge) if his dues are current and he is otherwise in good standing. You can also hold plural or dual membership in more than one Lodge. This sometimes occurs when one Lodge raises a candidate and he then moves to another area and wants to become active in a new Lodge. One must be a member of a Lodge in order to become an officer there. Plural Membership refers to being a member of more than one Lodge in this Jurisdiction (California), while Dual Membership refers to being simultaneously a member in this jurisdiction and in a Lodge of another jurisdiction. See your Lodge secretary for proper handling of the paperwork.

You can be suspended for nonpayment of dues or “unmasonic conduct”. If suspended for nonpayment of dues, you can apply for reinstatement. At any time, you may pay back dues for the year of nonpayment, plus the current year. If suspended for “unmasonic conduct”, you may petition for reinstatement through the proper procedures and channels. If convicted of unmasonic conduct by trial, the trial board may direct expulsion from the order. The verdict can be appealed to the Grand Lodge. A Mason suspended or expelled from a Lodge is automatically denied membership in all Masonic organizations.


Courtesy dictates that you should always arrive before a Lodge meeting is scheduled to begin. This also allows you to share in the fellowship of the Lodge, meet any visitors who may be present, and so on. If you are unavoidably detained and arrive after a meeting has begun, you should clothe yourself properly, inform the Tiler, and ask to be admitted.

The Tiler will inform the Junior Deacon, who will then request permission from the Master that you be admitted. The Junior Deacon will notify you when it is appropriate to enter and also of the Degree in which work is taking place. When permitted to enter, proceed West of the Altar, give the due guard and sign of the Degree, and then quickly take a seat. Keep in mind that you are likely interrupting the business of the Lodge, so be as unobtrusive as possible.

Retiring from a Lodge is accomplished in much the same way. Move West of the Altar, give the appropriate signs, and then leave.


Your deportment while the Lodge is open should be governed by good taste and propriety. You should not engage in private conversations, nor through any other action disrupt the business of the Lodge. Discussions in the Lodge are always a healthy sign and promote the interest of the Lodge – if properly conducted. If you wish to speak, rise and, after being recognized, give the due guard and sign and make your remarks. Always address your remarks to the Master, even if you are responding to a direct question from another Brother. When finished, you may then be seated. Religion, partisan politics and any other subject which might disrupt the peace and harmony of the Lodge, should not be discussed in Lodge. Voting on routine matters is usually conducted through a voice ballot.


There are five elected officers of a Masonic Lodge: the Master, Senior Warden, Junior Warden, Treasurer, and Secretary. The Master appoints the Chaplain, Senior Deacon, Junior Deacon, Marshal, Senior Steward, Junior Steward, Tiler and Organist. The Master, Wardens, and Senior Deacon must be proficient in the Work of their respective positions, and the District Inspector must certify their proficiency. Any qualified member may be elected by the Lodge to hold office, but most officer lines are progressive.


Once you have been Raised to the Sublime Degree of Master Mason, you may choose to join any number of Masonic Appendant Bodies. The two most common Appendant Orders are known as the Scottish Rite and the York Rite.

There are other rites, degrees, and organizations one may join upon becoming a Master Mason, depending on one’s interest in searching for further Light in Masonry. The Philalethes Society is an International organization of Masonic Research and offers members an outstanding quarterly publication, The Philalethes magazine, which includes excellent Masonic information from around the world. The Societas Rosicruciana in Civitatibus Foederatis (the Masonic Rosicrucian Society of the United States) is the most esoteric of all the rites and degrees of Freemasonry. It is an invitational body open to Master Masons. The Order of the Eastern Star, Order of the Amaranth, and the White Shrine of Jerusalem are popular concordant bodies which admit both men and women. Often, they provide the chance for a husband and wife to share in the Masonic experience together.

There are also three Masonic Youth Orders, which include boys and girls (and young men and young women) in the family of Freemasonry: The Order of DeMolay for Boys, the Order of Job’s Daughters, and the Order of Rainbow for Girls.

Each of these Appendant and Concordant Bodies is an important part of the larger Family of Freemasonry.

In the ceremonies, Freemasons are told that Freemasonry was in existence when King Solomon built the Temple at Jerusalem and that the masons who built the Temple were organized into Lodges.

Freemasons are also told that King Solomon, King Hiram of Tyre and Hiram Abif ruled over those lodges as equal Grand Masters. The ceremonies, however, are built up of allegory and symbolism and the stories they weave around the building of the Templeare obviously not literal or historical facts but a dramatic means of explaining the principles of Freemasonry. Freemasonry neither originated nor existed in Solomon’ s time.

Many well-meaning but misguided historians, both Masons and non-Masons, have tried to prove that Freemasonry was a lineal descendant or a modern version of the mysteries of classical Greece and Rome or derived from the religion of the Egyptian pyramid builders. Other theories reckon that Freemasonry sprang from bands of travelling stonemasons acting by Papal authority. Others still are convinced that Freemasonry evolved from a band of Knights Templar who escaped to Scotland after the order was persecuted in Europe.

Some historians have even claimed that Freemasonry derives in some way from the shadowy and mysterious Rosicrucian Brotherhood, which may or may not have existed in Europe in the early 1600s. All of these theories have been looked at repeatedly but no hard evidence has yet been found to give any of them credibility.

The honest answers to the questions when, where and why Freemasonry originated are that we simply do not know. Early evidence for Freemasonry is very meager and not enough has yet been discovered – if indeed it even exists – to prove any theory. The general agreement amongst serious masonic historians and researchers is that Freemasonry has arisen, either directly or indirectly, from the medieval stonemasons (or operative masons) who built great cathedrals and castles.

Those who favor the direct descent from operative masonry say there were three stages to the evolution of Freemasonry. The stonemasons gathered in huts (lodges) to rest and eat. These lodges gradually became not the hut but the grouping together of stonemasons to regulate their craft. In time, and in common with other trades, they developed primitive initiation ceremonies for new apprentices.

As stonemasons could easily travel all over the country from one building site to another, and as there were also no trade union cards or certificates of apprenticeship they began to adopt a private word which a travelling stonemason could use when he arrived at a new site, to prove that he was properly trained and had been a member of a lodge. It was, after all, easier to communicate a special word to prove that you knew what you were doing and were entitled to the wages it deserved that to spend hours carving a block of stone to demonstrate your skills.

We know that in the early 1600s these operative lodges began to admit men who had no connection with the trade – accepted or gentlemen masons. Why this was done and what form of ceremony was used is not known. As the 1600s drew to a close more and more gentlemen began to join the lodges, gradually taking them over and turning them into lodges of free and accepted or speculative masons, no longer having any connection with the stonemasons’ craft.

The only problem with this theory is that it is based solely on evidence from Scotland. There is ample evidence of Scottish operative lodges, geographically defined units with the backing of statute law to control what was termed the mason trade. There is also plenty of evidence that these lodges began to admit gentlemen as accepted masons, but no evidence so far that these accepted members were other than honorary masons, or that they in any way altered the nature of the operative lodges. No evidence has become known, after more than a hundred years of searching building archives, for a similar development in England. Medieval building records have references to mason’ s lodges but after 1400, apart from masons’ guilds in some towns, there is no evidence for operative lodges.

Yet it is in England that the first evidence of a lodge completely made up of non-operative masons is found. Elias Ashmole, the Antiquary and Founder of the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, records in his diary for 1646 that he was made a freemason in a lodge held for that purpose at his father-in-laws house in Warrington. He records who was present, all of whom have been researched and have been found to have no connection with operative masonry. English evidence through the 1600s points to Freemasonry existing apart from any actual or supposed organization of operative stonemasons.

This total lack of evidence for the existence of operative Lodges but evidence of accepted masons has led to the theory of an indirect link between operative stonemasonry and Freemasonry. Those who support the indirect link argue that Freemasonry was brought into being by a group of men in the late 1500s or early 1600s. This was a period of great religious and political turmoil and intolerance. Men were unable to meet together without differences of political and religious opinion leading to arguments. Opposing views split families and the English civil war of 1642-6 was the ultimate outcome. Those who support the indirect link believe that the originators of Freemasonry were men who wished to promote tolerance and build a better world in which men of differing opinions could peacefully co-exist and work together for the betterment of mankind. In the custom of their times they used allegory and symbolism to pass on their ideas.

As their central idea was one of building a better society they borrowed their forms and symbols from the operative builders craft and took their central allegory from the Bible, the common source book known to all, in which the only building described in any detail is King Solomon’ s Temple. Stonemasons tools also provided them with a multiplicity of emblems to illustrate the principles they were putting forward.

A newer theory places the origin of Freemasonry within a charitable framework. In the 1600s, there was no welfare state; anyone falling ill or becoming disabled had to rely on friends and the Poor Law for support. In the 1600s, many trades had what have become known as box clubs. These grew out of the convivial gatherings of members of a particular trade during meetings of which all present would put money into a communal box, knowing that if they fell on hard times they could apply for relief from the box. From surviving evidence these box clubs are known to have begun to admit members not of their trade and to have had many of the characteristics of early masonic lodges. They met in taverns, had simple initiation ceremonies and passwords and practiced charity on a local scale. Perhaps Freemasonry had its origins in just such a box club for operative masons.

Although it is not yet possible to say when, why or where Freemasonry originated it is known where and when “organized” Freemasonry began. On 24 June 1717 four London lodges came together at the Goose and Gridiron Ale House in St Pauls Churchyard, formed themselves into a Grand Lodge and elected a Grand Master (Anthony Sayer) and Grand Wardens.

For the first few years the Grand Lodge was simply an annual feast at which the Grand Master and Wardens were elected, but in 1721 other meetings began to be held and the Grand Lodge began to be a regulatory body. By 1730 it had more than one hundred lodges under its control (including one in Spain and one in India), had published a Book of Constitutions, began to operate a central charity fund, and had attracted a wide spectrum of society into its lodges.

In 1751 a rival Grand Lodge appeared, made up of Freemasons of mainly Irish extraction who had been unable to join lodges in London. Its founders claimed that the original Grand Lodge had departed from the established customs of the Craft and that they intended practicing Freemasonry according to the Old Institutions. Confusingly they called themselves the Grand Lodge of Antients and dubbed their senior rival Moderns. The two rivals existed side by side, both at home and abroad, for 63 years, neither regarding the other as regular or each others members as regularly made Freemasons. Attempts at a union of the two rivals began in the late 1790s but it was not until 1809 that negotiating committees were set up. They moved slowly and it was not until His Royal Highness Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex became Grand Master of the Premier Grand Lodge and his brother, His Royal Highness Edward, Duke of Kent, became Grand Master of the Antients Grand Lodge, both in 1813, that serious steps were taken.

In little more than six weeks the two brothers had formulated and gained agreement to the Articles of Union between the two Grand Lodges and arranged the great ceremony by which the United Grand Lodge of England came into being on 27 December 1813.

The formation of the premier Grand Lodge in 1717 had been followed, around 1725, by the Grand Lodge of Ireland and, in 1736; the Grand Lodge of Scotland. These three Grand Lodges, together with Antients Grand Lodge, did much to spread Freemasonry throughout the world, to the extent that all regular Grand Lodges throughout the world, whatever the immediate means of their formation, ultimately trace their origins back to one, or a combination, of the Grand Lodges within the British Isles.

Scottish Right
“The purpose of the Scottish Rite, simply stated, is to seek that which is the most worth in the world; to exalt the dignity of every person, the human side of our daily activities, and the maximum service to humanity; to aid mankind’s search in God’s universe for identity, for development and for destiny, and thereby achieve better men in a better world, happier men in a happier world and wiser men in a wiser world.”

The Scottish Rite Creed

The cause of human progress is our cause, the enfranchisement of human thought our supreme wish, the freedom of human conscience our mission, and the guarantee of equal rights to all peoples everywhere, the end of our contention.

The two “Rites” of Freemasonry are generally recognized; the “York Rite”, which many think should more properly be called the American Rite (Royal Arch Chapters, Councils of Royal and Select Masters, Commanderies) and the “Scottish Rite” of thirty three degrees. Both Rites have their roots in symbolic Masonry, and no man in the United States, Canada, England, Ireland or Scotland may be initiated into either York or Scottish Rite who is not already a member of a Blue Lodge.

While the Scottish Rite has thirty-three degrees, numbered from 1 to 33, the Supreme Councils of the English speaking countries do not assume any authority over the first three degrees where there exists a Grand Lodge which adheres to the Landmarks of freemasonry and continues regular, legitimate and duly constituted and which refrains from interfering with the administration of the Fourth to Thirty-third Degrees inclusive by the Supreme Council. The Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite goes so deeply into the past for much of its symbolism and philosophy that its origins are lost in the mists of antiquity from which emerges history.

History of the Scottish Rite

In 1761 the first “secret” Constitutions was framed; in 1762, the “Constitutions and Regulations”, these, with the later Constitutions of 1786, are its fundamental law. The first Lodge of Perfection was established in this country in Albany, New York, as early as 1767. The first council of Princes of Jerusalem was organized at Charleston, South Carolina, in 1788. The first Sublime council of Princes of the Royal Secret (of Twenty-five degrees; the 25 was then the highest of the Rite of Perfection) was established at Charleston, South Carolina, in 1797. The real establishment of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite dates from 1801, when the first Supreme Council, now the Mother Supreme council of the World, was established in Charleston. Subsequently, under the provisions of the Grand Constitutions, a second Supreme Council was formed and the original council took the name of “The Supreme Council 33, for the Southern Jurisdiction of the United States of America.” It is the oldest existing council and, therefore, the Mother Council of the World, from which all Supreme Councils of the Rite hold, either mediately or immediately. Thus the original Jurisdiction became two by act of the Supreme Council, which in 1813 established the Northern Supreme Council with, originally, fourteen States: Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana and Michigan. At that time the present State of Wisconsin was a portion of Illinoisterritory, becoming a part of Michigan in 1818. Hence the Northern Jurisdiction now comprises fifteen States of the Union. The Southern Jurisdiction, retaining the rest of the United States and whatever territory may become a part of it and also those countries where the Supreme council has or may hereafter establish Bodies of the Rite, comprises thirty-three States; Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wyoming; it also includes the District of Columbia, the Army and Navy (shared with the Northern Supreme Council),China, Japan, Hawaii, Philippine Islands, Puerto Rico, the Canal Zone and Alaska. These two Jurisdictions have always worked, and now work, in complete harmony, the separation being geographic only. The Scottish Rite is sometimes called Continental Masonry because it had its origin from the Rites practiced on the Continent of Europe which later crystallized into the Scottish Rite through the constitutions of 1761, 1762 and 1786. It is also known and practiced on the Continents of Europe and North and South America, in Asia, Africa, Australia, New Zealand, etc.

In the Southern Jurisdiction the Lodge of Perfection confers the Ineffable degrees from the 4th to the 14th; the Chapter of Rose Croix confers the Historical and Second Temple degrees, 15th and 16th, and the Religious degrees, 17th and 18th; the Council of Kadosh confers the Chivalric and Philosophical degrees, from 19th to the 30th inclusive, and the Consistory completes the series by conferring the Official degrees, 31st and 32nd. In the Northern Jurisdiction the Lodge of Perfection confers the 4th to the 14th, inclusive; the Council of Princes of Jerusalem, the 15th and 16th; the Chapter of Rose Croix, the 17th and 18th; and the Consistory the 19th to 32nd, inclusive. In Canada there are but three Bodies, Lodge of Perfection, Chapter of Rose Croix and Consistory.

The Thirty-third Degree of the Rite differs from others in that for it no one may ask; it must be given. In the Southern Jurisdiction a brother receives first the distinction of being names K.C.C.H. (Knight Commander of the Court of Honor). From those of this rank the Supreme Council chooses those who may receive the 33, Inspector General Honors. The Northern Supreme council does not award the distinction of K.C.C.H. These honors are given for merit, long or distinguished service to the rite, the Craft or to humanity, and are highly prized. Those who have received the 33 wear a triple band ring, sometimes plain, sometimes bearing a triangle with the figures 33 within it.

The Scottish Rite is wholly non-sectarian. It is deeply religious in character, but in the same sense that Symbolic Masonry is religious – it teaches religion, not a religion. Both Northern and Southern Supreme Councils observe the ceremonies of Extinguishing and Relighting the Symbolic Lights; the first on Maundy Thursday (Thursday before Easter), the latter either immediately following or upon Easter Sunday. These ceremonies are perhaps as beautiful and impressive as any degree in any rite, unforgettable by any who have ever seen or taken part in them.

It is impossible, of course, to describe the degrees of the Scottish Rite. Nor are the degrees the same in the Northern and Southern Supreme Councils. In the latter, the rituals are largely the result of Albert Pike’s revision and spiritualization of older rituals. In the Northern Jurisdiction, while many of the degrees follow the Mother Council’s ritual in form, some of the ceremonies are entirely different. Scottish Rite degrees usually are, and always should be when possible, put on in costume land by carefully trained casts. Many of the ceremonies are very elaborate, requiring a small army of workers; when well done, they attract brethren from many miles away. Indeed, so difficult are some of the ceremonies, and so extensive the facilities and preparation required, that many are seen but once or twice a year, and in but a few centers in any State. From this has arisen that custom which Scottish Rite Masons know as the “Reunion” – a gathering of Scottish Rite Masons from all over a State to see and take part in the degrees given to a “class”; such Reunions not uncommonly last a week. Not all Bodies of the Rite put on all the degrees in any one Reunion. Those which are omitted are communicated, and often those not “worked” in one reunion are staged in the next. In any “class” the final degrees in each of the four bodies are invariably staged. Elective and appointed officers in each of the bodies may take part in degrees, but do not necessarily do so. The degrees are elaborate, costumed ceremonies, many of them requiring a much larger cast than could be supplied from an official line. The ceremonies are difficult and intricate, their scenic investiture large; they offer great opportunities for workers who have talent and ability. Teams for the various degrees frequently remain intact for long periods of time, the brethren perfecting themselves from year to year until they are, literally, “Past Masters” in their work. The initiate usually sees a spectacle “The degrees are put on before the candidates rather than worked upon them) which is in the hands of trained experts, many of whom have done the same part for years.

In the earlier degrees that “further light”, which is hinted at in the Blue Lodge, is given and questions which many Master Masons ask after they are raised to the Sublime Degree are answered with solemnity and reverence. Later, matters wholly new to Master Masons are taken up, and a wealth of philosophy, religion, and knowledge made available for the postulant. The fourth to the thirty-second degrees of the Scottish Rite, beautiful and inspiring as they are, should not be, as they often are, called “Higher Degrees” connotating an elevation, a superiority, over the first three degrees. “I’m only a Blue Lodge Mason – I never went any higher” – how often is that semiapologic statement made! The greatest authorities in the Scottish Rite are emphatic in the statement that neither that Rite nor any other can make a man more of a Mason than he becomes in the Blue Lodge. The degrees can, and frequently do, make him a better Mason, just as the labor required to earn a college degree can, and often does, make a man a better, but not more a citizen than he was before he passed through college. The Scottish Rite degrees are numerically greater than the first, second and third, but not “higher”. Our degrees are in addition to and are in no way “higher” than Blue Lodge degrees. Scottish Rite work amplifies and elaborates on the lessons of the Craft. It should never be forgotten that termination of a member’s Symbolic Lodge standing automatically terminates his Scottish Rite membership.

The Scottish Rite is governed by a Supreme Council in each Jurisdiction, just as Symbolic Masonry is governed by a Grand Lodge in each Jurisdiction. But the composition of a Supreme Council and a Grand Lodge is wholly different. The Grand Lodge consists of the Masters and Wardens of Blue Lodges, and certain permanent members (Past Grand Masters, Grand Officers, in some Grand Jurisdictions Past Masters, etc.), Supreme Councils in this country are limited to thirty-three Active Members (Southern Jurisdiction). Sixty-six Active Members (Northern Jurisdiction). These Active Members (All having previously attained the 33 degree) are elected by their fellows and for life. In the Southern Jurisdiction the officers of the Supreme Council are elected for life; in the Northern Supreme Council, for three years, but the principal officers are almost invariably reelected, so that tenure is usually for life. Scottish Rite Masons in many States have erected and occupy beautiful and impressive buildings, especially designed and equipped for Scottish Rite work. One of the most, if not the most, beautiful Masonic structure in the world is the “House of the Temple” home of the Supreme Council S.J. in Washington, D.C. Sessions of the Supreme Council are held in it every two years.

The York Rite is one of the appendant bodies of Freemasonry in which a Master Mason may proceed to supplement and amplify the Blue Lodge degrees, affording historical background on the work and meaning of Freemasonry. The York Rite takes its name from the old English city of York. The York Rite is not a religion in itself, it does, however, develop themes based on the Medieval Crusades.

The York Rite confers degrees beyond the Blue Lodge’s three degrees. In the York Rite, A Master Mason may become a member of three bodies that consists of nine additional degrees: Chapter – Mark Master, Past Master, Most Excellent Master, and Royal Arch Mason; Cryptic – Royal Master, Select Master, and Super Excellent Master; Chivalric Orders – Illustrious Order of the Red Cross, Order of Malta and the Order of the Temple. . In none of these is any memorization required to advance from one degree to another. There are many easily learned parts that any interested Mason may acquire and participate in the conferring of the work. In the York Rite, most of the work is by a cast of characters made up to portray more vividly the message and the cast is robed to add to the impressiveness of the lessons.

Many believe the Sublime Degree of Master Mason to be the ultimate degree of Freemasonry and that all others are added and explanatory. Most students of Freemasonry agree that the story of the Craft as presented in the three degrees is incomplete and that the degrees offered in the York Rite of Freemasonry complete the story and answer many of the questions in the mind of the newly made Master Mason.

The York Legend

The oldest document that refers to ancient Freemasonry is the Regius Poem, or Halliwell Manuscript. James O. Halliwell discovered an ancient manuscript in the archives of the British Museum in 1838. Scientists have concluded from the type of parchment, language, and lettering that this document was written in approximately 1390 A.D. The poem consists of 794 lines of Old “English verse and covers several subjects, most directly applicable to Freemasonry. While this manuscript was probably written in the 14th century, it refers to a period of Masonic history in England in the late 10th century. It relates the Legend of York, which follows below and is the basis for the prominence the city of York has occupied in Masonic lore since the first millennium. Regulations for the government of the craft are included in the poem, as are fifteen articles and fifteen points dealing with ethical, moral and spiritual responsibilities of the ancient craftsmen. These are as applicable to us today as they were 1000 years ago.

Athelstan, the grandson of Alfred the Great, ruled England from 924 to 940 A.D. He completed the subjection of the minor kingdoms in England, begun by his grandfather, and has been hailed as the first King of all England. The Regius poem and other ancient legends relate that Athelstan was a great patron of Masonry, and that he constructed many abbeys, monasteries, castles, and fortresses. He studied Geometry and imported learned men in these arts. To preserve order in the work and correct transgressors, the king issued a Charter o the Masons to hold a yearly assembly at York. He is also reputed to have made many Masons. The legends proceed to relate that Athelstan appointed his brother, Edwin, as Grand Master and that the first Grand Lodge was held at York in 926. The accounts state that the constitutions of English Masonry were there established and were based upon a number of old documents written in Greek, Latin and other languages. Aside from the direct implications of this legend, it is interesting to note that the King and Prince were patrons of Masonry and as such were probably speculative, rather than operative members of the craft. The fact that this concept prevailed as early as 1390 A.D., and possibly earlier, makes is easier to account for the fact that so many speculative members of high rank joined the craft in the 17th and 18th centuries.

What is the Chapter or Royal Arch Masonry?
The Royal Arch Chapter is the second of the four York Rite Bodies of Masonry (the first is the Symbolic Lodge, where the first three Degrees of Masonry are conferred.) Chapters confer four degrees: Mark Master, Virtual Past Master, Most Excellent Master, and Royal Arch.

Royal Arch Freemasonry provides an outstanding opportunity for Master Masons desirous of Further Light in Masonry to explore some of the deeper mysteries of the Craft. The four degrees of the Chapter are truly some of the most profound and impressive within the whole Family of Freemasonry.

Most impressive of all is the Royal Arch Degree itself. It is here that the True Word of a Master Mason is rediscovered in a beautiful ceremony that takes the candidates through the destruction of King Solomon’s Temple, the seventy years of the Babylonian Captivity, and the ultimate return to the Holy Land to help, aid, and assist in the rebuilding of the Temple of the Most High.

So important is the Royal Arch to Craft Freemasonry that at the Act of Union in 1813, the United Grand Lodge of England issued the pronouncement:

“Pure Ancient Freemasonry consists of but three degrees and three degrees only, namely, that of Entered Apprentice, Fellowcraft, and Master Mason, including the Holy Royal Arch.”

Every Master Mason aspires to attain the summit of Ancient Craft Masonry. Many feel with regret that it is not practicable for them to share in all the light shed by the several bodies, but all wish most earnestly to receive all the light and instruction which pertains to the Ancient Craft-the origin and foundation of the Institution.

In the life of every Master Mason, moreover, there comes a time when he realizes that he has not yet attained that goal, that he Is not yet in possession of all the rights and light of a Master Mason, as these were known and understood by his ancient brethren.

The preparatory Degrees conferred in the Chapter are those of Mark Master Mason, Past Master and Most Excellent Master. All are beautiful, all are interesting, all teach valuable lessons, but the Most Sublime Degree of Royal Arch Mason is more august, sublime and important than all that precedes it. It brings to light many essentials of the Craft contained ONLY in this Most Sublime Degree and explains many cryptic passages of the first three Degrees incomprehensible to the Master Mason. Without knowledge of these the Masonic character cannot be complete.

It has been said that “The Royal Arch stands as the rainbow of promise in the Ritual; it stands as the promise of the resurrection; of that which was lost and that which shall be recovered.”

All who are Exalted to that Most Sublime Degree, particularly by those who are seeking ·to complete their Masonic education; will justly appreciate the value of Royal Arch Masonry. It reveals the full light of Ancient Craft masonry, presents it as a complete system in accordance with the original plan and confers at last the rights and light of a Master Mason in fact as well as in name. It truly leads to a fuller understanding of the purposes and spirit of Freemasonry, for standing upon this towering summit we are able for the first time to perceive the completeness of the Ancient Craft and to understand how all its forms and ceremonies, from the Entered Apprentice to the Master Mason’s Degree, are the preparation for the final goal, the Most Sublime Degree of Royal Arch Mason.

The Mark Master Degree

History of the Mark Master Origin

The antiquity of Mark Masonry cannot be doubted. Operatively considered, and even Speculative, it has enjoyed special prominence for centuries, records of the custom of the adoption of Marks by theoretical brethren according to existing records dating back to the 8th day of June, A. D. 1600.

Mark Masonry formerly consisted of the degrees of Mark Man and Mark Master Mason. These degrees, in the sense given to the word “degree,” were wholly unknown to the Operative Freemasons of the Middle Ages. They were undoubtedly invented and put into working order in Scotland. That they were founded upon the custom established by the Operative Freemasons of Cologne and Strasburg and later introduced into other countries of Europe, in requiring the selection and registration of Marks, is clear.

There is little doubt that both the degrees were invented in Scotland. Just when a special and elaborate ceremony (with a distinctive legend) was first used it is not possible to decide. The following quotation from Graham Mss. Dated 1726 but which scholars believe is written in a style at least 50 years before is most interesting:

“-now it is holden forth by tradition that there was a tumult at this Errection which should happened betwixt the Laborers and masons about wages and for to call me all and to make all things easy the wise king should have said be all of you contented for you shall be payed all alike yet give a signe to the Masons not known to the Laborers and who could make that signe at the paying place was to bayed as masons the Laborers not knowing thereof was payed as foresaid- this might have yet if it was so were to Judge very Mercyfull on the words of the wise King Solomon for it is to be understood and also believed that the wise king meant according to every mans deserving-”

The story of the Temple origin of the Mark Master Degree is a myth, as is the legend of the Third degree. From all we know about the time of origin of the Mark Degree, we are led to believe that it was invented or fabricated later the Third or Master Masons Degree.

The Mark was and is directly associated with both Operative and Speculative Freemasonry and from time immemorial it has been the custom for the skilled craftsman to chisel his distinctive Mark on stones fashioned by him, so as to indicate his workmanship.

The existence of proprietary marks on European Buildings may be traced as far back as the 10th century. The Greek artists who introduced the Byzantine style of architecture, for which the Freemasons afterwards substituted the Gothic, probably brought them over at that time.

But it was not until the 15th century that we were furnished with any historical evidence that there was an organized systems of laws by which the imparting, owning, and using of these marks was regulated.

The Mark degree is important because it is the connecting link between operative and speculative Masonry. As early as 1599 we find that non-operative Masons were admitted to operative Mark Lodges. What this ceremony consisted of no one knows. There may have been some moral teachings connected with it. The records hover; merely show the payment of a fee and the registering of a Mark.

The early history of the degree in what is now the United States is very similar to that in the other countries and is very meager. It was conferred in Lodges as part of the Lodge work as was the Most Excellent and the Royal Arch. Apparently Lodges worked the degrees as an inherent right and not under the authority of a charter.

Ohio was no different in its practices than the rest of the country. Almost as soon as Marietta was settled, American Union Lodge was opened. This Lodge was originally a military lodge warranted by the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts in 1776. After the close of the war and the dissolution of the Army the warrant was in possession of the Master, Jonathan Heart, who carried it to Fort Harmar, near Marietta, where he was stationed. Under this warrant American Union Lodge was opened in Marietta in 1790.

Unlike many of the early Masonic Bodies American Union Lodge did keep fairly complete minutes, which have been preserved. From these minutes we learn the American Union Chapter, under the aegis of American Union Lodge, began holding meetings in 1792 and conferred all of the degrees although the minutes refer to them as steps rather than degrees and do not mention them by name until 1797. The degrees were the Past Master, Mark Master, Most Excellent Master and Royal Arch.

With the organization in 1797 of what eventually became known as the General Grand Chapter and with the forming of Grand Chapters, the degrees of Mark, Past, Most Excellent and Royal Arch came under the jurisdiction of Chapters operating independently of Symbolic Lodges.

The Degree of Mark Master is a continuation of the lessons taught in the 2nd (Fellowcraft) Degree. The Degree teaches that although we are often misunderstood, underrated and traduced, there is ONE who will make the rejected stone the Head of the corner.

The Mark Master Degree is based on the ceremony of registering a craftsman’s mark in those years distinguished by operative craft masons and their temple building. Some scholars say it may be one of the earliest Masonic degrees.

The candidate for the Mark Master Degree represents a humble laborer in the quarries of King Solomon’s Temple. This degree expands on the lessons of charity first introduced in the Entered Apprentice Degree and developed further in the Master Mason Degree. It also encourages the thoughtful student of the Craft to be true to his heart and be ever willing to stand up for what he knows to be right, even if that position is unpopular.

The degree of Mark Master teaches us to discharge our several duties punctually and with precision, the duty of assisting a distressed brother is forcibly illustrated. Historically the degree illustrates the process by which the work on the temple accomplished by each craftsman was identified.

The Past Masters Degree

The Degree of Virtual Past Master teaches that before one can rule, he must learn to obey; before one can govern others, he must learn to govern himself. This Degree is part of the Royal Arch Chapter because originally only Past Masters were allowed to receive the Degree of Royal Arch. This Degree therefore fulfills that requirement.

The Past Master Degree came into being because the degree of Royal Arch was originally conferred on actual Past Masters only. The (virtual) Past Master Degree was instituted to make it possible for all worthy Brethren to receive the Royal Arch Degree. This degree confers no actual status as a Past Master upon the candidate, but it qualifies him for admission to the Royal Arch. The first record of its conferral is found in England in 1768.

The Past Master degree came into being because originally the Symbolic Lodge only on actual Past Masters conferred the degree of Royal Arch. This restriction prevented many worthy brethren from receiving the full information of the degrees of Freemasonry. The degree of Past Master was instituted in order to conform to tradition and to make it possible for worthy brethren to receive the Royal Arch degree. The conferring of this degree by a Chapter gives a brother no rights as a Past Master in a Symbolic Lodge unless he has actually served as Master of his Lodge. The Most Excellent Master degree dramatizes the historical incidents of the completion and dedication of King Solomon’s Temple. This degree emphasizes the opportunity and obligation of Companions to disseminate light and knowledge to less informed brethren.

The Most Excellent Master Degree

The Degree of Most Excellent Master is a very beautiful and dramatic Degree. Here the Temple on which work was halted so dramatically in the 3rd (Master Mason) Degree is completed.

The Most Excellent Master Degree is a product of American innovation. It was conferred in a Royal Arch Chapter as early as 1783 in Middletown, Conn. It is a most spectacular degree, and the pageantry with which it is conferred makes it one of the most colorful in all Freemasonry. It is the only degree that brings forcibly to our attention the completion and dedication of King Solomon’s Temple; the very idea upon which all Masonic symbolism has been based.

The Royal Arch Degree

The Degree of Royal Arch is the capstone of the Craft Degrees. It is concerned with the discovery of a crypt and the value of the resulting discoveries to the Craft. In this Degree, that which was lost in the 3rd (Master Mason) Degree is again found.

The Royal Arch Degree is the climax of Ancient Craft Masonry and Masonic Symbolism. It has been described as “the root and marrow of Freemasonry.” It is the story of Jewish History during some of its darkest hours. Jerusalem and the Holy temple are destroyed, and the people are being held captive as slaves in Babylon. Here the candidate joins with his Brethren as they are set free from captivity to return home and engage in the noble and glorious work of rebuilding the City of Jerusalem and the Temple of God. It is during this rebuilding that they make a discovery that brings to light the greatest of all treasures in Masonry – the long-lost True Word of a Master Mason.

All who are Exalted to that most sublime degree, particularly by those who are seeking to complete their Masonic education, will appreciate the value of Royal Arch Masonry. It reveals the full light of Ancient Craft Masonry, presenting it as a complete and unified system. No other degrees of Freemasonry are so intimately linked with the Blue Lodge or have so ancient and noble a history.

The Royal Arch Degree is set in a later period in the history of the Jewish People. Events of the objects of the Jewish people were preserved, discovered and restored. This degree is the culmination of Ancient Craft Masonry for here we find that which was lost-the word for which you were given a substitute in the Master Mason degree is imparted to you in solemn and impressive ceremonies.

These Degrees continue the education, which the Master Mason received in the Symbolic Lodge. Any Master Mason who wishes “Further Light in Masonry” should receive them.

What is the Council or Cryptic Masonry?
The Council of Cryptic Masonry is the third of the York Rite bodies. A man must have completed the Symbolic Degrees and have taken the Degree of Royal Arch before he can become a Cryptic Mason. Cryptic Masonry consists of three Degrees: Royal Master, Select Master and Super Excellent Master. They were formerly known as Councils of Royal and Select Masters. The Council of Royal and Select Masters, known as the Cryptic Rite, fills what would be a significant void in the complete story of the York Rite. The Degrees of Royal Master and Select Master are sometimes called the Degrees of Preservation. The Council Degrees are often referred to as “The Three Little Jewels” and are to many, the most appealing in all Masonry.

A brief history of the Council or Cryptic Masonry

While eminent Masonic scholars have frequently disagreed with the exact history of the formation of the Cryptic degrees, there is at least some general information on the degrees with which most Masonic historians will agree. It is on this information that we will concentrate here.

The Cryptic Rite is “one of the smallest but one of the most important and certainly one of the most curious of all the rites,” according to Coil’s Masonic Encyclopedia. “Crypt” comes from a Greek word meaning “hide, conceal, or secret,” and thus has come to mean a vault, cave, or other place of underground concealment. The Cryptic degrees are centered on stories involving a vault or crypt where certain treasures were hidden beneath King Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem for very specific purposes. Rob Morris, a very influential Mason in the 1800’s, first called them “Cryptic”.

The origin of the Cryptic degrees were theorized to be invented in France together with the other degrees that were included in the Rite of Perfection, which later were collected into what is today the Scottish Rite, and that the Cryptic degrees were brought to America just like the Scottish Rite degrees by Stephen Morin from France in 1761. When the Supreme Council for the Southern Jurisdiction of the U.S. was organized in 1802 in Charleston, the degrees, which are now in the Scottish Rite, were organized, while some “detached” degrees, including the Royal and Select degrees, which had previously been given were now dropped. Some of those who had received these degrees then conferred them on their own and established Councils in the process.

The Stuart theory is interesting and needs some explanation. The Stuart family ruled England starting in 1603, with a break from 1649 to 1660 after Charles II was executed by Parliament under Oliver Cromwell. The last Stuart to reign, James II, was forced to abdicate in 1688. After the Hanoverian family came to the English throne in 1714 with George I, the Stuarts invaded England in 1715 and 1745, by way of Scotland, which supported them, but both attempts failed. The Stuarts and their supporters lived in exile in France, which recognized their claim, and they continued to try to regain their throne for many years with the support of some in England. The Stuart exiles living in France in the early 1700’s, sometimes called “Jacobites” from the Latin form of the name for James, were involved in Freemasonry. Some Masonic lodges in France and Italy were made up completely of Jacobites, and the grandson of James II, “Bonnie Prince Charlie” was definitely an active Mason. In 1745, the same year he attempted to invade England, he became the Grand Master of the Masonic Knights Templar, and also formed a Chapter of Rose Croix. The Jacobite Masons considered the death of Hiram Abiff to represent the execution by the English Parliament of Charles I, the father of James II, and the raising of Hiram Abiff to represent the coming restoration to the English throne of the Stuart Kings. The “Royal Master” was the Stuart claimant to the throne, who was called by some the “Pretender” to the throne (at first James II, then his son James III, and then the grandson, Charles), and the secret vault was the place where the Jacobites plotted their return to power. The “Select Masters” were the closest companions of the “Pretender.”. The ritual of the Select Master’s degree can easily be seen to be that of a secret political movement, if one believes this theory.

The degrees of Royal and Select Master were not originally combined into one system, each having been conferred by separate parties and initially controlled by separate Councils. As near as may be determined from conflicting claims, the Select degree is the oldest of the Rite. It was customary to confer the Royal degree on Master Masons prior to the Royal Arch, and the Select degree after exaltation to the sublime degree. This accounts for the fact that control of the Cryptic degrees vacillated back and forth in many jurisdictions, even after the formation of Grand Councils.

The Royal degree appears to have been developed primarily in New York under direction of Thomas Lownds, whereas Philip Eckel in Baltimore vigorously promulgated the Select. It is claimed by Eckel that Grand Council of Select Masters was formed in Baltimore in 1792, while it is definitely known that a Grand Council of Royal Masters (Columbian No. 1) was organized in 1810 in New York. It remained for Jeremy Cross to combine the two degrees under one system, which occurred about 1818, and this pattern was adopted in most jurisdictions as the degrees became dispersed beyond the eastern seaboard.

The degree of Super Excellent Master is not allied to the other two degrees of the Cryptic Rite, so far as its teachings and traditions are concerned. The records of St. Andrews Chapter in Boston indicate that a degree of this name was conferred during the latter part of the eighteenth century. The earliest positive reference to the Super Excellent in connection to the Cryptic Rite is December 22, 1817, when Columbian Council of Royal Masters in New York organized a “Lodge” of Super Excellent Masters. The incidents, teachings, and ritualistic format of the Super Excellent degree bear no resemblance in any former degrees so named, which appears to justify the claim that it is American in origin. This degree has been, and to some extent still is, a rather controversial subject. It is conferred as one of the regular Cryptic Rite degrees in some jurisdictions, whereas the others confer it as an honorary degree only; in some instances, separate Grand Councils of Super Excellent Masters have been formed.

Council or Cryptic Degrees

The degrees of the Council of Royal and Select Masters are necessary to fully complete your education in Ancient Craft Masonry. The degrees of our Masonic system are not chronologically arranged and in the degrees of Royal and Select Master, which many believe, are the most beautiful and impressive of all, you learn of additional incidents in the building of the first temple. During these degrees you represent the Master Builder, Hiram Abiff, and learn why the word was lost and the secret of its preservation and recovery. The Super Excellent Master degree, though having no connection with Ancient Craft Masonry, is a vivid dramatization of truth and fidelity and never fails to impress those who witness it, either for the first time or after many times. The degrees of the Council will enable you to more fully understand your third degree of Symbolic Masonry and the degree of Royal Arch.

Symbolism of the Council or Cryptic Degrees

This section is taken freely from Mackey’s Symbolism as written in Chapter XXXI of “The History of the Cryptic Rite.” It is not written verbatim, but rather was adapted to the form of our present day ritual. Symbolism from other authors has been incorporated. It is the belief of the Grand Council, that if our members understand the beautiful symbolism of our Order, they will become better members of their subordinate Councils. We encourage you to study and learn more about our great Order, as it is not possible to include everything of interest or importance in this brief synopsis. We learn in the Royal Master degree, that there was an agreement among our three Most Excellent Grand Masters, that the word would not be communicated to the Craft until the Temple was completed, and then only in the presence of all three. We learn in the Master Mason degree, how the Word was lost, and in the Royal Arch degree, how it was recovered. In the Symbolic degrees, we have an account of the loss of the Word, and we search but do not find. In the Chapter, we search and find, but do not understand the significance of what we have found. It is left to the Cryptic degrees for enlightenment and explanation, to learn how the Word was preserved, and what it means. In the Royal Master degree, we learn that whatever may be the uncertainties of life, the reward is sure to the faithful Craftsman. In the Select degree, we learn that the Word is to be preserved in the Secret Vault of the Soul. While in the Super Excellent Master degree, we find that catastrophe overtakes the unfaithful, whether he be a prince or pauper, and that without fidelity, success is impossible.

Royal Master

The Degree of Royal Master symbolizes a Fellowcraft in search of more Masonic Light. His efforts are eventually rewarded and he is admitted into a select fellowship that has been entrusted with Cryptic secrets not yet available to the majority of the craft. However, as Devine truth can only be fully perceived by those who have attained an advanced state of spiritual awareness, the Fellowcraft, now a Royal Master must continue his quest until the Temple is completed.

This degree is held in the Council Chamber, and represents the private apartment of King Solomon, in which he is said to have met for consultation with his two colleagues during the construction of the Temple. Its symbolic colors are black and red — the former being significant of grief and the latter of martyrdom — and both referring to the chief builder of the Temple. The period of time referred to in the first and second sections of the degree is different. In the first section, Hiram Abif is active in the construction of the Temple. In the second section, he is missing and the Temple is very near completion. This is evident by the presence of the Ark of the Covenant and the investiture of Adoniram with the responsibility of the Master Builder. His search is not complete as he is instructed that in due time he will receive his reward, and is returned to the Clay Grounds to continue his labors. The Beautiful Piece of Work (brought up by Adoniram), represents a pure and complete life, offered to the Supreme Architect of the Universe, followed by an admonition to remain content and in due time we shall receive our reward. The reward will come after our life has been completed, and is further symbolized by our entry into the 9th Arch, after completing all the symbolic instructions of Ancient Craft Masonry. The 9th Arch is usually considered the symbolic Gate of Death. It is now high twelve, an appropriate time to cease our labors and commune with the Supreme Architect of the Universe. The number twelve is considered a sacred number in Mythology. It is explained by some as being the product of multiplying the three-sided triangle by the four-sided square. The triangle represents the three equal attributes of Deity; His Omniscience, Omnipresence, and Omnipotence (Universal wisdom, peace, and power). Low twelve consists of the same numbers, but represents death, or the midnight of life. Hiram Abif passes from the spiritual trestle board to the temporal trestle board, where the eager candidate, who is still pursuing his search for Divine Truth, meets him again. Then he delivers the commentary on death, moving slowly around the room, going in the same manner and direction as the sun. He explains that all men are equal in the eyes of God, from the youngest Entered Apprentice, to King Solomon.

Royal Master (Second Section)

As the first light of day comes from the East, we are taught to look to the East for enlightenment. The step symbolizes reverence toward the Alter. We alternate steps as we pass through the degrees, up to, and including the Royal Master degree. It is believed this has an allusion to the path of the Sun crossing the Northern and Southern Hemisphere, between the two signs of the zodiac, Capricorn and Cancer, in a zigzag motion. When the two hemispheres are laid out end-to-end, with two parallel lines on the sides, it forms an oblong square or the shape of a Lodge. In the sign, Alpha is the first, and Omega is the last letter of the Greek alphabet, equivalent to the beginning and the end of anything. Alpha and Omega is adapted as a symbol of Deity. This passage was at one time read from the Apocalypse during the circumambulations, but is now read from the book of Revelations. The equilateral triangle represents our three Grand Masters at this point in the ritual. The broken triangle represents the allegory of life. Some must go, and other must remain and carry on. The number seven was sacred in Hebrew Scriptures and ceremonies. The seventh day was the Sabbath day; Solomon was seven years in the building of the Temple; there are usually seven sabbatical years; seven days usually constituted the feast periods; and seven represents completeness. In the Temple, twelve loaves of bread (shewbread) were always kept upon a table in the sanctuary (representing the twelve tribes of Israel). It was a symbol of the bread of eternal life by which we are brought into the presence of God. The principal article of furniture in the Temple of Solomon at Jerusalem was the Ark of the Covenant. The Cherubim surmounted it and between the wings of these fabled characters was the Shekinah, or perpetual cloud, from which the bathkol issued when consulted by the High Priest. The Altar of Incense was made of wood and overlaid with gold, as was most of the furniture of the Temple. On the four corners were horns, in shapes like those of ram’s horns. A censer was placed on the top center of the Golden Altar, and in it sweet incense was burned every morning. On the table of Holy Vessels were pots, shovels, basins, flesh-hooks, and fire pans, as well as all the other vessels or utensils necessary to the services of the Altar. These were made of gold and brass.

Select Master

The Degree of Select Master completes the education of the craftsman with regard to the concealed mysteries of Ancient Craft Masonry. It explains how the secrets, which were found in the Royal Arch Degree, were preserved. He to complete his spiritual building presents the candidate with additional teaching, which will require future application. This degree commences with a character by the name of Zabud. Zabud was a friend of King Solomon, and appears in several of the Masonic degrees. To most of our membership, Zabud is but another character out of the past. Yet a reading of the Holy Scriptures reveals that he was truly the friend and companion of King Solomon, for Zabud was one of the sons of Nathan the Prophet. Nathan was the chief advisor of King David, and it was through the strategy of David, Nathan, and Bath-Sheba that Solomon came to the throne of Israel, for the natural heir to the throne should have been Adonijah. Zabud must have been about the same age as Solomon, and probably frequented the Royal Court where he acquired the friendship and favorable notice of Solomon, later developing into a friendship, which caused King Solomon to refer to Zabud as “my particular friend and favorite.” The Deputy Master refers to the number 27 which is also alluded to in the closing ceremony. Although the closing ceremony states it a little differently, some authors believe that 27 members were made up from one of each of the twelve tribes of Israel, the three workmen who discovered the triangle hidden by Enoch before the flood, nine Grand Masters of the Arches, one of whom was Ahishar, and our three Grand Masters. The Select Master degree, or the building of the Secret Vault, took place between the first and second sections of the Royal Master degree. This is explained by saying that the secrets of the Select Master degree were not brought to light until long after the existence of the Royal Master degree had been known and acknowledged. In other words, to speak only from the traditional point of view, Select Masters had been designated, had performed the task for which they had been selected, and had closed their labors without ever being recognized as a class in the Temple of Solomon. Their occupation and their very existence, according to legend, were unknown in the first Temple. Whether the punishment meted out to Ahishar was deserved, we should not question, for the story is but a legend, teaching us that constant watchfulness is necessary in waging the warfare of life, and only those shall succeed who are constantly on guard. Considered simply as a historical question, there can be no doubt of the existence of immense vaults beneath the superstructure of the original Temple of Solomon. Legend has it that Josiah, foreseeing the destruction of the Temple, commanded the Levites to deposit the Ark of the Covenant in this vault, where it was found by some of the workmen of Zerubbabel, at the building of the second Temple. Masonic legend, whether authentic or not, teaches that there was an Ark in the second Temple, but that it was neither the Ark of the Covenant, which had been in the Holy of Holies of the first Temple, nor one that had been constructed as a substitute for it after the building of the second Temple. It was that Ark which was presented to us in the Select Master degree, and which, being an exact copy of the Mossical Ark, and intended to replace it in case of its loss, is best known to Freemasonry as the Substitute Ark. In the Masonic System there are two Temples; the first Temple in which the degrees of Ancient Craft Masonry are concerned, and the second Temple, with which the higher degrees, especially the Royal Arch, are related. The first Temple is symbolic of the present life; the second Temple is symbolic of the life to come. The first Temple, the present life, must be destroyed; on its foundations, the second Temple, the life eternal, must be built. And so we arrive at this result, that the Masonic Stone of Foundation, so conspicuous in the degree of Select Master, is a symbol of Divine Truth, upon which all Speculative Masonry is built; and the legends and traditions which refer to it are intended to describe, in an allegorical way, the progress of truth in the soul, the search for which is a Mason’s labor; and the discovery of which is to be his reward.

Super Excellent Master

The Degree of Super Excellent Master is not a Cryptic Degree. However it is placed here to prepare the candidate historically for the Order of the Red Cross, which is the first of the Commandery Orders. It teaches the candidate to Walk in Faith, Promote Friendship and Practice Fidelity. In 598, Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, besieged Jerusalem, captured the city and took into captivity the King, Jehoiachin (Jeconiah). He replaced him on the throne with Mattaniah, the youngest son of Josiah, and an uncle of the former King, who was but twenty-one years old. Nebuchadnezzar changed Mathaniah’s name twice, although the reasons as to why are not clear. First to Mattaniah, which means “gift of Jehovah” and then to Zedekiah, which signifies “Jehovah is righteous.” As one of the conditions of his enthronement, there was extracted from him a solemn oath to be subject and loyal to his King and to Babylon. Being subjects of Babylon, naturally there were powerful parties in court determined to throw off the yoke of the “barbarian” ruler, and, in order to accomplish this, favored an alliance with Egypt. It is natural that this palace clique and the priestly circle should favor Egypt. The civilizations of the Nile were a dying one, but its rulers and its aristocracy were living in wealth and luxury, blind to the ominous forces threatening their existence. The royal crowd of Jerusalem was of like character, and attracted by the same glitter and pretense. Against this royal party was arrayed the strength, courage, and oratory of Jeremiah of Anatoth, the prophet, a descendant of one of the earlier High Priests of the Jews, and a small group of followers, who advised submission to Babylon as the only means of preserving national entity, and claimed for his position that he had direct command, and approval of Jehovah himself. Into this maelstrom of contending and conflicting forces was plunged a young man of twenty-one, immature, inexperienced, over-shadowed for years by his princely relatives, lacking in strength of character and resolution. To be sure, at times he showed an inclination to follow the voice of the prophet, but it was an inclination, which he did not have the strength and resolution to pursue through to the bitter end, in the face of intrigues, and the influence of royal favorites. The story of his struggle with Jeremiah, his yielding to him on occasion, his later stiffening of his neck in opposition to him, his punishment of him, and of the conflict between Jeremiah and the petty dignitaries of the court, is a fascinating one, and it gains much in its appeal as it is portrayed in the degree of Super Excellent Master.

Any Royal Arch Mason should take these Degrees as it completes the Masonic Education, which he received during the Symbolic and Royal Arch Degrees. Here is completed the Circle of Perfection of Ancient Craft Masonry but to the followers of Christ there is a definite need and desire for application of these impressive lessons and beautiful ceremonies to the Christian believer and his way of life

What is Knight Templary?
The fourth, and last, of the York Rite Bodies of Masonry, Commanderies of Knights Templar serves as the crowning glory in completing the Christian Path towards Masonic Light. This is the only recognized Masonic Body that has religious connotations, since it is based on the Christian Religion and virtues. As a consequence, while not all Masons will become Knight Templars, every Christian Mason should to complete his Masonic journey. Today’s Knight Templar is a man dedicated to the living Christ, and the defense of the virtues contained in the practices observed by all true Christians.

In the Commandery, there are three ‘degrees’ or steps, which are called Orders. These are The Illustrious Order of the Red Cross, The Mediterranean Pass and Order of Malta and The Order of the Temple; after the Orders of Knighthood and Chivalry as known in Europe before the reformation. Hence, we are called Chivalric Masonry.

History of the Knights Templar

The Order was founded in Jerusalem in 1118 by Hughes de Payens Geoffroy de St. Omer and seven other French knights. It was consecrated to the protection of pilgrims and the defense of the Holy Land. The founding knights took monastic vows and were known as “The Poor Knights of Christ”.

King Baldwin II, the French King of Jerusalem (1118-1131) installed the Order in a part of his Palace, on the site of Solomon’s Temple, for their residence, stables and armory, from which it took its name of Knights of the Temple or Templars.

At the Council of Troyes in 1128 Pope Honorius II, who gave it the strict Rule dictated by St. Bernard, a monk of the Cistercian Order who became the first Abbot of Clairvaux, confirmed the Order. The Knights also received the white mantle as a symbol of purity of their life, to which in 1146 Pope Eugenius added the red Templar cross.

The Order’s battle honors in defense of the Holy Land were many. Following the fall of Jerusalem in 1187 the Templars withdrew to Acre. They remained at Acre with Grand Master William de Beaujue until 1291 when the city was captured and he was killed. The surviving Templars, with their new Grand Master, were the last to leave the city. The Order withdrew to Limmasol, Cyprus and had its Headquarters at the Temple Monastery in Paris.

After many years of sacrifices and rendering services to both Christianity and civilization, this very rich and powerful Order excited the envy and greed of others. The principal malefactor was Philippe le Bel, King of France, who was financially indebted to the Order. In 1307 Philippe arrested all serving Templars in France with the intention of sequestrating all the Order’s possessions. However, these were hidden in a secret place and have never been found to this day. Not able to judge the Order himself, (it was only answerable to the Pope) Philippe set about to coerce the Pope to suppress the Order, but the Pope refused. Whereupon, the king dismissed him and created his friend, the Bishop of Bordeaux, Pope Clement V, who readily issued a Bull suppressing the Order in 1312. The Order then reverted to its original status of a Secular Military Order of Chivalry.

Only in France were the Templars treated with any severity, with Grand Master Jacques de Molay and others burnt at the stake in March 1314 on an island in the Seine. In England, Edward II (a patron) at first did not take any action against the Order, but finally, he allowed the inquisitors to judge the Order at the Church of All Hallows By-the-Tower. Edward then set about reclaiming English Templar lands and possessions including the London Temple, rather than passing them to the Hospitallers. After Edward’s actions The Templars sought refuge in Scotland where they were welcomed.

Prior to his martyrdom in 1314 Grand Master Jacques de Molay invested Jean-Marc Larmenius with his powers. Larmenius was unanimously recognized as the new Grand Master following de Molay’s death. He gathered together the dispersed remnants of the Order and in 1324 gave the Order the Charter of Transmission. This Charter is still one of the governing documents of the Present Order.

The Order continued in secret with an uninterrupted line of Grand Masters until 1705. In March of that year a number of French nobles held a convention of Templars at Versailles. They elected Philip, Duke of Orleans, later Regent of France, as the Order’s 41st Grand Master. Thus as Regent of France and Grand Master of the Temple it provided an official renewal and legitimization of the Order of the Temple as a Secular Military Order of Chivalry and also its right to resume the use of “sovereign” in its title.

After the death of the Duke of Orleans in 1723, three Princes of Bourbon were Grand Masters of the Order until 1776. That year the Duke of Cosse Brissac accepted the Grand Mastership and remained in office until his execution during the French Revolution in 1782. Having foreseen the coming events he passed on the Order’s archives and the Charter of Transmission to Radix de Chevillon. The Order survived the Revolution and went through a period of prosperity in France during the early C19th with many people of high office asking to be admitted.

Between 1818 and 1841 the Order expanded greatly with over 20 Convents in France and Priories set up in Great Britain, Germany, Belgium and Switzerland. Legations were also established in Sweden, Brazil, India and in New York.

In 1940 when France and Belgium were invaded by Nazi Germany, Emile Joseph Isaac Vandenburg who lived in Brussels was Grand Master. In order to safeguard and ensure the survival of the Order he handed over his rights to a Portuguese neutral, a nobleman, Count Antonio Campello Pinto de Sousa Fontes who became the Regent pending an election of a Grand Master. Since these times many Grand Priories have claimed Autonomous status. However, in 1989 an International Federative Alliance was formed with the intention of electing a new Grand Master.

History of the Knights of Malta

The Sovereign Military and Hospitaller Order of St John of Jerusalem, called of Rhodes, called of Malta (generally known as the Order of Malta), came into existence between c. 1080 when a hospital for pilgrims was established in Jerusalem near the Abbey of St Mary of the Latins, and 1113, when the hospital, its administrators and dependencies were recognized by the Pope as an Order of the Church, dedicated to the care of the sick poor. Half a century after its foundation it assumed military as well as Hospitaller functions, and by 1200 it was playing a major role in the defense of the Christian settlements in Palestine and Syria which had been set up by the Crusaders. From its origins it was endowed on a massive scale in Western Europe and it developed an international structure to manage these properties for the benefit of its work in the East.

Driven from Palestine with the rest of the Catholics in 1291, the Hospitallers of St John took over the island of Rhodes, off the coast of Asia Minor, which became their base for naval operations against Muslim shipping. They ruled the island as a semi-independent state until 1522. They were then given the island of Malta, which they held until 1798. During the centuries of the Order’s government of Rhodes and Malta it became recognized as a sovereign power.

With the loss of Malta the order’s military functions ceased, and Hospitaller work again became its only duty. It moved its headquarters to Rome in 1834. It is still regarded by many states (though not by all) as a sovereign subject of international public law. The seat of the Grand Magistracy in Rome, under the present Grand Master, HMEH Fra´ Andrew Bertie, has the right of extra-territoriality recognized by the Italian state.

The Commandery of Knights Templar

The Commandery orders represent a new direction of Masonic thought and experience, in that they no longer refer to Ancient Craft Masonry, but to ideals and practices of chivalry and Christianity. The first Commandery order, the Illustrious Order of the Red Cross, presents the story of the Jewish Prince, Zerubbabel, and his efforts to secure permission of the Persian King Darius to rebuild the second temple at Jerusalem. The next order, Knight of Malta, is a complete departure from Masonry based on the Old Testament and is the first Christian order. Here, the candidate represents a knightly warrior of the Crusades prior to his departure for the Holy Land. The last order is that of Knight Templar, the crowning glory of the York Rite system. Again, in this totally Christian order, the candidate represents a knightly postulant who desires to unite with a Commandery of Knights Templar during the era of the Crusades. After several trials to test his faith, courage, and humility, achieving his desire rewards him. Let us consider these orders in more detail.
The Orders of Knighthood, the Commandery of Knights Templar, are three in number. The Order of the Red Cross, The Order of Malta, and The Order of the Temple. Each of these portrays beautiful and impressive lessons and explains the Christian interpretation of Freemasonry.

Order of the Red Cross

This order consists of two sections: (1) Zerubbabel’s (the candidate) admission to the Jewish Council at Jerusalem, in which he is invested with permission and authority to travel to Babylon and attempt to obtain leave from King Darius to stop the enemies of the Jews from hindering their progress in building the Temple, as well as to recover the holy vessels of the Temple which were taken as booty to Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar when he destroyed the First Temple. Zerubbabel is also given a sword to defend him; a sash to remind him of his cause; and a password to get him by Jewish sentinels on his journey. Unfortunately, he is captured and made prisoner upon reaching the domains of King Darius. (2) At the court of Darius, Zerubbabel renews his earlier friendship with the king, and is granted a position in the royal household. He then participates in a friendly contest with other nobles of the realm regarding the question: ” Which is greater? The strength of wine? The power of the king? Or the influence of woman?” Zerubbabel contends for the latter, and adds an additional factor: The force of truth. After delivering his declamation on women and concluding in favor of truth above all, Zerubbabel is declared the winner of the contest and is granted his desires by the king. To perpetuate the occasion, Darius creates a new order, the Illustrious Order of the Red Cross, and after an obligation, makes Zerubbabel its first member. Next follow the signs, grips, and words as well as a historical lecture. The body is called a Council. The cornerstone of this order is the all-important attribute of truth, and the importance of keeping one’s word. It foreshadows the words of Jesus: “I am the Way, the TRUTH, and the Life.”
Order of Malta

This Order actually consists of two: The Order of St. Paul, or the Mediterranean Pass, which is a preparatory order, and the Order of Malta itself. The Order of Malta must be conferred in either full or short form. The full form is quite elaborate and beautiful but, alas, is not conferred by many Commanderies. The short form is but a summary of the lessons taught in the full form, and this is what I will describe here. The Order of St. Paul is based on the story of Paul’s shipwreck on the island of Melita (Malta). The candidate represents a knight about to depart for the Crusades in the Holy Land. He receives sustenance, both spiritual and physical, to prepare him for the ardors of his journey. The Order of Malta is a suitable preparation for the Order of the Temple, in that it provides the candidate with additional New Testament instruction, particularly in the eight Beatitudes. The symbol of the order is the Maltese cross, symbolic of the Beatitudes and the eight languages, which once were spoken by its members. The candidate is created a Knight of Malta and invested with words and signs specific to the Order. The body is called a Priory.
Order of the Temple

This Order begins with the candidate, a Knight of Malta, who, after soul-searching reflection and suitable answers to certain questions, seeks to unite with a Commandery of Knights Templar. To test his faith, his directed to perform a certain number of years of pilgrimage. Being full of zeal and wishing to accomplish more useful deeds, he requests and is granted remission. He assumes a most solemn obligation, and then is obligated to a certain number of years of knightly warfare, as a test of his courage and constancy. Having satisfactorily performed these, he is admitted to the Asylum of the Knights Templar, where he is a participant in certain memorial exercises to KS, HKofT, GMHA, and Simon of Cyrene. Accompanying these exercises is a reading of New Testament scripture and an inspirational slide presentation. He is then required to perform a time of penance in token of his humility. Following this, he seals his membership in the Order in the most solemn, impressive and binding manner, and is duly dubbed a member of the Valiant and Magnanimous Order of the Temple. Again, he receives certain signs, grips, and words, as well as an explanation of the important accoutrements of Templary, the Grand Standard, Baldric, Beauceant, Sword, and Spur. The body is called a Commandery. The relevance of this sublime Order to the Christian Mason can scarcely be overstressed. It provides a vivid connection between the Craft and Christianity. Especially relevant and meaningful is the address given by the Prelate during the course of the ceremonies.
A Knight Templar Commandery has 12 officers, in order of rank: Eminent Commander, Generalissimo, Captain General, Recorder, Treasurer, Prelate, Sr. Warden, Jr. Warden, Standard Bearer, Sword Bearer, Warder, and Sentinel. Some jurisdictions also have a Marshal. Members are styled “Sir Knight”. At least 9 Knights must be present to open a Commandery. Commanderies usually meet monthly. The state governing body is the Grand Commandery. The national body, to which Grand Commanderies must belong, is the Grand Encampment of Knights Templar of the United States of America.