Entered Apprentice...the First Step as a Candidate...
As a candidate for the degree of Entered Apprentice Mason 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 a new existence. It is not a mere formality, but a genuine epiphany, the beginning of a new life in which duties, rights, privileges, and responsibilities are real and life-changing. Entrance into the lodge is symbolic of the movement from the outer to the inner, from the exoteric to the esoteric, from the world of material senses into the spiritual world of better understanding one’s true self and purpose.
If a newly initiated 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, more complete, and perfect man. Freemasonry offers no privileges or rewards except to those who desire of their own free will; this places real working tools, not playthings, in the hands of the brothers. To become a Mason is a solemn, sacred, and serious undertaking. Once the first step is taken, Freemasonry, if a man’s heart and intentions be genuine, will, without any doubt, change his life for the better. The reception and greeting, of the candidate, of his own free will and accord, into the lodge room is intended to symbolize the premise that our obligations and rituals are serious and confidential and that there are consequences for violating this confidence. This also reminds a man that his every action has a consequence, either in the form of reward or penalty. The method of reception also points out the value of a certain virtue needed to gain admission into the mysteries of Masonry.
Our obligation is the heart of any Masonic degree, for when it is assumed by the candidate, he has solemnly bound himself to our Brotherhood of God and accepted certain duties and responsibilities which are his to fulfill for the rest of his life. The taking of the obligation is visible and audible evidence of a candidate’s sincerity of purpose. In addition to binding the candidate to Freemasonry and its duties, the obligation also protects the fraternity against someone revealing the modes of recognition and certain symbolic instructions and ceremonies unique to the degree being conferred. Like many other ceremonies used by our fraternity, the roots of this practice are ancient. Taking of vows was a common practice in all the Ancient Mystery Schools and guilds. Many vows were expressed in very specific terms such as promises to God, our Creator.
Although the nature of making vows and obligations has changed somewhat in modern times, it remains a very powerful method for setting direction and commitment in one’s life and the building of character. The ancient, rather terrible, and certainly bloody penalties for violating ones obligation, although not now (if they ever were) enforced, have been retained in our Entered Apprentice ritual to impress upon the mind of each brother Mason how seriously a violation will be regarded by the brothers of the fraternity. The obligations are voluntarily assumed of your own freewill, and every practical means possible is employed to impress the newly obligated brother Mason with their solemnity and the necessity of obeying them faithfully and keeping them from profane eyes.
Being “duly and truly prepared,” physically refers to being divested of all mineral and metallic objects on or about your person and being properly dressed, or clad, so as to emphasize our concern with a man’s internal qualifications, rather than his worldly wealth, honors, and position in society. By undergoing the rites of preparation, the candidate signifies to the brothers, his fellow Masons, the sincerity of his intentions. 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” are not idle words in our brotherhood.
The symbolism of the Masonic hoodwink is two fold: First, it emphasizes the veil of secrecy and silence surrounding the mysteries of Masonry; second, it represents the “darkness,” or ignorance, of the uninitiated. It is removed at the appropriate time, when the candidate is in the proper state of mind and qualified by his obligation to receive Masonic light. The Masonic term hoodwink is of ancient usage and should not be confused with the modern word—which implies an attempt to fool, defraud, cheat, or otherwise “pull the wool over someone’s eyes.”
The working tools, as an Entered Apprentice, are those used by the ancient operative masons in the erection of a building. The working tools of this degree are specified to be the twenty-fourinch gauge and the common gavel. The symbolic description of these two implements will be provided to you during initiation and are also contained in the “Monitor,” with which a newly obligated brother is presented in due time. It is interesting that one tool, the twenty-four-inch gauge, is used passively, and the other, the common gavel, is used actively. One is a tool of measurement and calculation, while the other is one of change and creative destruction.
To the speculative Mason, these tools represent the moral habits and forces by which man shapes and reshapes himself. By the proper use of these symbolic tools, he also better 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 always constructive work to be done, and indicate the direction this work is to take. You are charged to care for your tools like any good craftsman and to keep them bright with use.
Prior to advancement to the Fellow Craft, or second degree, every Mason must be able to answer certain questions and reach a required level of proficiency in the work of the Entered Apprentice degree. The proficiency requirements are explained in detail by the lodge. The purpose of the requirements is to teach each newly obligated brother the language of Freemasonry, fix in his memory the teachings and structure of the degree, impress upon his consciousness the different points of the obligation, and to teach the value of our ancient methods of learning and contemplation. The questions must be answered to the satisfaction of the master and bretheren of the lodge. A candidate will be apprised of all the requirements for advancement to the next degree and suitable assistance will be afforded a candidate of the mystery of Masonry to accomplish them.