To the new Entered Apprentice
You have just taken a very important step in your life and we welcome you to the Ancient and Honorable Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons.
The Entered Apprentice Degree, which has just been conferred upon you, is the first of a series of experiences that will have a definite effect upon your life and character. The extent to which this may be true will depend upon your personal reaction to the moral and philosophical principles which will be imparted to you as you progress through the various ceremonies.
The first degree is by no means the least; in fact, many Master Masons remember it as the most impressive. It is important because, in it, many of the most important tenets of Freemasonry are presented to you for the first time, to be enlarged upon later.
In it, you come to us, symbolically, from darkness to light. It is a new and different experience, and, if it has been presented with the sincere dignity and precision that the degree deserves, it will have made upon your heart, and mind an impression that will last as long as life.
In it, you were taught the importance of prayer in a true Mason's life, and the beauties of harmony and brotherly affection, so beautifully portrayed in the 133rd Psalm.
In it, you were introduced to the three Great Lights of Freemasonry, the basic foundation upon which all our moral teachings rest, from which you should draw your strength, wisdom, and guidance for life's journey.
In it, you were clothed with the distinctive badge of a Mason which, while it recognizes the necessity and dignity of labour, admonishes you that it should never be soiled by any careless or unworthy action.
In it, you learned your first lesson in Masonic charity; a true Mason is charitable in thought, word, and deed.
In it, you were presented with the first of the Working Tools of the Craft, tools especially appropriate to an apprentice, by which, important Masonic teachings are symbolized. You have symbolically laid the cornerstone of your Masonic character, and you have been admonished that uprightness and discretion in word and action should be characteristic of a Mason's conduct.
The physical properties of the Lodge, its furnishings and ornamentation, were explained to you.
The exercise of the principal tenets of the institution: Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth were reviewed and enlarged upon, and you were further instructed in the application of the four cardinal virtues, viz., Fortitude, Prudence, Temperance, and Justice.
Finally, you were seriously charged carefully to observe your various duties to God, to your Neighbour, and to yourself, all of which are very important to your character. A Mason's vocabulary should be conspicuous by the absence of profanity and obscenity.
Freemasonry, as we practice it today, is based upon Ancient Craft Masonry as practised during the period when the Masonic Fraternity was actually composed of architects and builders. But for the purposes of your apprenticeship and this paper, we will deal with more recent periods only.
The medieval Entered Apprentice was a young man, carefully selected to learn a trade or craft. He was required to be free-born, of good character, respectable parentage, and sound physique. He was required to pass an examination before being advanced to a higher status in his profession. In conformity with this ancient practice, you will be required to pass an examination based upon the ritualistic portions of the Entered Apprentice Degree through which you have just passed. We hope that your interest may be such that you will eventually use any available sources for reading and study, so that you may learn and enjoy the fascinating history and philosophy of Freemasonry.
Saint John the Baptist and Saint John the Evangelist are the patron Saints of Freemasonry, hence the phrase, "From a lodge of the Holy Saints John of Jerusalem".
The compasses teach us self-control; we should restrain unworthy desires or inclinations in every circumstance of life, remembering that there are many passions in human nature, such as selfishness, temper, appetite, deceitfulness, and wickedness. Having learned "to subdue your passions", it is natural that you should continue "to improve yourself in Masonry".
The theme of our degrees is largely associated with the history of King Solomon's Temple, from which association much of our symbolism is derived.
The Master of a lodge occupies a position of unique authority; his rule should be as regular as the laws of nature and such as to warrant the rank and title of Worshipful Master.
The Principal Tenets of Freemasonry are Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth. It is necessary not to overlook the word "principal" for it signifies that, while our Fraternity lays the greatest emphasis on these three teachings, there are others which must not be overlooked.
It is not uncommon for men to consider Brotherly Love, while highly desirable, as not practicable, and, therefore, but a vision, to be dreamed of but never possessed. It is challenging for Freemasonry to call these "tenets", thus stating that they are both obviously and necessarily true. Unless you grasp this, and see that the principles of Freemasonry are self-evident realities, not visionary ideals, you will never understand Masonic teachings. For Freemasonry does not tell that the principles of Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth ought to be true, that it would be better for us all if they were true — it tells us that they are true. They are tremendous realities in human life, and it is as impossible to question their validity as to question the ground under our feet, or the sun over our heads. Our problem is not whether to believe them, but what are we going to do with them?
What then, is Brotherly Love? Manifestly, it means that we place on another man the highest possible valuation as a friend, a companion, an associate, a neighbour. By the exercise of Brotherly Love, we are taught to regard the whole human species as one family. We do not ask that from our relationship we shall achieve any selfish gain. Our relationship with a brother is its own justification, its own reward. Brotherly Love is one of the supreme values without which life is lonely, unhappy, ugly. This is not a hope or a dream, but a fact. Freemasonry builds on that fact, provides opportunities for us to have such fellowship, encourages us to understand and to practice it, and to make it one of the laws of our existence - one of our Principal Tenets.
Relief is one of the forms of charity. We often think of charity as relief from poverty. To care for the helpless or unemployed is usually deemed as a responsibility resting on the public. As a rule the public discharges that responsibility through some form of organized charity, financed by general subscriptions or out of public funds.
Our conception of relief is broader and deeper than this. We fully recognize the emergency demands made by physical and economic distress, but we likewise understand that the cashing of a cheque is not necessarily a complete solution of this difficulty. Present sometimes are such problems as readjustment, rehabilitation, keeping the family together, educating the children - all vital to the welfare of those concerned. Through the whole process, there is the need for spiritual comfort, for the assurance of a sincere and continuing interest and friendship, which is the real translation of our first Principal Tenet: Brotherly Love.
Masonic Relief takes it for granted that any man, no matter how industrious and frugal he may be, through sudden misfortune or other conditions over which he has no control, may be in temporary need of a helping hand. To extend it is not what is generally described as charity, but is one of the natural and inevitable acts of brotherhood. Any conception of brotherhood must include this willingness to give necessary aid.
By Truth, the last of the Principal Tenets, is meant something more than the search for Truth in the intellectual sense, though that is included. Truth is a divine attribute and the foundation of every virtue. To be good and true is the first lesson we are taught in Masonry. In any permanent brotherhood, members must be truthful in character and habits, dependable men of honour on whom we can rely to be faithful fellows and loyal friends. Truth is a vital requirement if a brotherhood is to endure, and we, therefore, accept it as such.
You are now a Mason, but, as an Entered Apprentice Mason, you will realize that your privileges are restricted to that degree for the present, and it will be becoming for you to conduct yourself in such a manner as to merit the interest and trust that we will place in you.