The Obligation Of An Entered Apprentice Mason

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The Obligation Of An Entered Apprentice MasonBy W. Bro. Robert V LundNovember 2013IntroductionThis short presentation on the Obligation of an Entered Apprentice Mason will deal, insome measure, with the Obligation itself. However, the Entered Apprentice needs tounderstand the context of this Obligation. To that purpose, I will deal with the stepsleading up to the Obligation, the actions and items involved in the Obligation, theObligation itself, and its meaning in light of the aforementioned.Context of the Entered apprentice DegreeThe First Degree is made up of fourteen distinct acts, in two series of seven each: thefirst seven are in a State of Darkness; the second seven in a State of Light;corresponding to the Ancient Mysteries. The Obligation comes in as the last act indarkness.The real intention of Freemasonry, like any true spiritual path, is meant to direct aperson to find the answers to the larger questions and motives: “Why am I here?”;“Where do I come from?”; “What is my purpose here?”; “Where do I ultimately go?”I have come to understand that there are three aspects to our ritual: physical, mental,and spiritual. The first degree is mostly related to the physical; the second degree to themental (or intellectual), and the third to the spiritual. However, each one of the degreerituals has, within it, those same three levels. The physical relates to the actions andmovement and includes, believe it or not, lessons in Geometry and Astronomy. Themental relates to the moral and intellectual aspects, and the spiritual is the hidden aimof the ritual.Before I go on, I must put forward some arguments that provide evidence to convinceyou that there is a deeper, hidden meaning. Our ritual tells us that there is. At yourinitiation, you were announced at the door of the lodge as “a poor candidate, in a stateof darkness, humbly soliciting to be admitted to the mysteries and privileges of AncientFreemasonry”. The words ‘ancient’ and ‘mysteries’ are giving us a clue.During the examination before passing to the second degree, you were asked: “What isFreemasonry?”. The answer being: “A beautiful system of morality, veiled in allegory,and illustrated by symbols”. Brethren, in this statement are more clues that there issomething that is hidden. Let’s examine this in more detail.

“Veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols.” – “veiled” means “hidden or covered”,and here is the first clue that there is something hidden; “allegory” means “a story thathas a deeper or more general meaning in addition to its surface meaning“, and this isanother clue; a symbol is “something used for, or regarded as, representing somethingelse”, which is another clue. As you can see, this statement of the definition of Masonrydefinitely refers to something hidden.What is it that is veiled? The Junior Warden's Tracing Board lecture begins “The usagesand customs of Masonry have ever corresponded with those of the EgyptianPhilosophers, to which they bear a near affinity. The Pythagorean System seems tohave been established on a similar plan”. Here is another statement that hints that thereis something hidden and that our ritual incorporates ancient mysteries.This points to the real secret of Masonry: that our ritual hides deeper, more esoteric,spiritual lessons, based on various ancient mysteries and teachings that have beentaught throughout the ages, in different forms.The Approach to the AltarThe Junior Deacon tells you: “The way to approach the altar in this degree is by threesteps, the first of fifteen inches, the second of twelve, the third of nine.”First question: why three steps?Three is the dominant number in this degree. Read the ritual and see for yourself.Some examples are: three questions; three knocks; three positions of the sun (rising,meridian, setting); three working tools; three grand offerings; three pillars (wisdom,strength, beauty, and the three orders of architecture); three great lights; three lesserlights; three items of furniture (volume of the sacred law, square, compasses); threemovable jewels; thee immovable jewels.One could think of three as being used to achieve balance: two extremes and a point inthe middle. I put it this way in an article on the Pythagorean number system: Theestablishment of a relationship between two opposing forces becomes a third force, toprovide balance.Second question: why fifteen, twelve, and nine inches?These are the lengths of the three sides of a Pythagorean triangle, used to construct aright-angle. This is defined in the 47th problem of Euclid, and an important discovery bythe learned Pythagoras.So, from a mason’s point of view, this could be used to create a square. Obviouslythat’s of great use in building and construction, but as we are not operative but Free andAccepted masons, we make use of it for more noble purposes.As Masons, we understand the moral lessons derived from the square. These aretaught in the ritual and lectures of the Entered Apprentice Degree.In addition, the triangle is an ancient symbol, and its many forms have variousmeanings.History records that Pythagoras established a society with philosophical aims. Therewere many teachings around Sacred Geometry, which was used to try and understand

the Universe. Shrouded in secrecy, they believed that only by truly understanding theuniverse could one achieve salvation of the soul, and as Divinity created all things,studying it over a period of several lifetimes, could bring one closer to Divinity itself.From a spiritual point of view, we should understand the base of the triangle torepresent the physical aspect of ourselves. The vertical line represents the mental orintellectual aspect, and the hypotenuse or diagonal represents the spiritual side.It should be noted that the steps are towards the East, which is defined in the mysteriesas the source of light.Examining the AltarThe Obligation is taken at the Altar and on the Three Great Lights of Freemasonry (theVolume of the Sacred Law, the Square and Compasses).The Altar holds the Volume of the Sacred Law, and is therefore considered to be asacred place. This applies to the Altar itself as well as the area immediately surroundingit.The Volume of the Sacred Law is typically a sacred text such as the Old Testament, theKoran, or some other book meaningful to the Candidate. But it has a deepersignificance. It is the visible emblem of the invisible Cosmic Law, through which theCreator is manifested in the Universe. It represents the Creator, whose “law” is thebasis for everything in existence, as taught in the ancient mysteries.Resting on the Volume of the Sacred Law are the Square and Compasses. In additionto the meaning given to these by the Worshipful Master: of keeping in due bounds withall of mankind, and acting on the square (meaning being honest in all your actions),there are deeper meanings.The Compasses represent the Cosmic (or Divine) Principle and our link to themanifestations of the Creator. Further meaning will be found in the Master MasonDegree.The Square, although opposite to, and inextricably conjoined with, the Compasses,represents cosmic matter, in which the Divine Principle takes form.The points of the Compasses, being concealed beneath the Square, in this degree,imply that the candidate's spirit is, at that time, overlain, and prevented from full functionby the tendencies of his material body. If man is to become perfected and rise to the fullpossibilities of his being, his spiritual principle must not remain subordinate to the fleshand its tendencies, but gain ascendancy over them.To summarize: Three Great Lights represent Cosmic Law, the Cosmic or DivinePrinciple, and Cosmic Matter. In conjunction, the Three Great Lights reveal the CosmicPurpose: of Spirit and Matter working in unison, and according to Cosmic Law, toconstruct a perfect Universe, occupied by beings seeking perfection, as described in theAncient Mysteries. Explaining this further at this point is not possible due to time

constraints, but it is important and further study is required in order to understand fullywhat this represents.The position of the Altar in the Lodge (the centre) is a symbol of what Masonry believesthe Altar should be in actual life, a centre of union and fellowship, as if to teach us thatno man can learn the truth for another, and no man can learn it alone.The altar represents the most sacred Altar on earth which is at the centre of your being.This will be explained further in the Master Mason Degree.Preparing for the ObligationAs part of the Candidate being properly prepared, the right arm, left breast, and leftknee are made bare, and the right heel slipshod. Why is this so?The left breast is obvious: it receives the sharp instrument at the entrance to the Lodge.In determining the purpose of the other parts made bare, consider the position in whichthe Candidate is placed before taking the Obligation. He is placed on his left knee,which is bare. He places his slipshod right foot on the floor at the Altar, and his bareright arm is covering the Volume of the Sacred Law. So, everything is made bare toenable close contact with the sacred area while taking the Obligation.In the Entered Apprentice Degree, the Volume of the Sacred Law is open at Ruthchapter IV, verse 7. This verse states:“Now this was the manner in former time in Israel concerning redeeming andconcerning changing, for to confirm all things; a man plucked off his shoe, and gave it tohis neighbor: and this was a testimony in Israel.”Now this does not make sense in itself and, even if you read the whole chapter, it maynot be clear, so I will summarize. Ruth had been married to Mahlon, who died. Therewere no children and, therefore, no one to care for Ruth. It was tradition in those timesfor a kinsman to take responsibility for a widow and her property. This obligation wassignified in public by the responsible person removing his shoe. The person who tookresponsibility in this case was Boaz, who was incidentally not a kinsman. Ruth andBoaz were the great-grandparents of King David, who was the father of King Solomon.So, Ruth ties in to Boaz, who ties in to Solomon, both of whom are mentioned in theDegree.The ObligationWhat is the purpose of the Obligation?It asks you to make a promise that you will “always hele, ever conceal, and neverreveal” the secrets or mysteries of Ancient Freemasonry.Firstly, if you don’t already know, the word ‘hele’ is an old word meaning ‘to hide’.Secondly, what are the” secrets or mysteries” that you are not to reveal?The ritual says that the secrets of this degree are” those marks by which Masons areknown to each other”. This means the signs, tokens and words that were communicatedto you. We all know that these ‘secrets’ can be found in books and on the Internet, sowhy keep them secret? The reason is that this is the first real test of your character, of

your upholding the principles of Freemasonry, of fidelity. If you cannot keep thispromise, then you don’t belong in the Order.We’ve dealt with the secrets, but what about the mysteries?Traditionally, the Mysteries, and all secret Orders, require a vow of silence and secrecyfrom the Candidate, before Initiation, and entrustment with any secret information. Thereasons for secrecy, and for being solemnly obligated to it, are much deeper than theneed for silence about the formal secrets of the Order.You should be aware that silence and secrecy are imposed more in interest of theindividual himself, than in the Fraternity (which has hardly suffered from indiscreetexposures). Experience will teach the Candidate, later on, the deep personal value ofsilence, and the peril of premature and unwise speech: a peril pointed to in the penaltyof the Obligation (and what it represents). Knowledge of the ancient mysteries and itspractices is very personal, and is a difficult concept to be communicated in words and, ifdone so, can be misunderstood and misinterpreted by those not familiar with them.Esoteric orders will typically cut off communication with those who reveal secrets to theuninitiated. This is reflected in the penal clause, which is purely symbolic. This can alsobe understood as causing a disconnect between the mind (or soul) and the spirit,preventing further progress in understanding cosmic truths.The penal signs in all the Degrees have a corresponding relationship with certainenergy centres within our being. In the Hindu metaphysical tradition, and in some otherphilosophical systems, these are called Chakras. In the First Degree, the penal sign isrelated to the Throat Chakra, which has to do with communication.ConclusionHaving taken the solemn Obligation of an Entered Apprentice Mason, the Candidate isthen given the predominant wish of his heart: Light, and is then deemed to be a BrotherMason. ‘Light’ is obviously symbolic and, based on the information in this presentation, Ihope that every newly initiated Brother will seek the light that lies at the heart of ourritual.

Freemasonry”. The words ‘ancient’ and ‘mysteries’ are giving us a clue. During the examination before passing to the second degree, you were asked: “What is Freemasonry?”. The answer being: “A beautiful system of morality, veiled in allegory, and illustrated by symbols”. Brethren, in this statement are more clues that there is

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