The North East Corner

In the teaching profession there is a phrase;

“Tell me I will forget, show me I will remember, involve me and I will understand.”

There is no better institution than Freemasonry that understands this phrase more.

All our allegories (stories), are playlets which involve the student (the candidate), taking a major role in the telling of a story which teaches some form of personal development.

The ritual of the NE corner is one such powerful piece of teaching.

Let us examine that piece of ritual more closely. The lesson on Charity.

Video Presentation

It is customary, at the erection of all stately and superb edifices, to lay the first or foundation stone at the north east corner of the building.

You, being newly admitted into Masonry, are place at the north east part of the Lodge figuratively to represent that stone, and from the foundation laid this evening may you raise a superstructure perfect in its parts and honourable to the builder.

Freemasonry became popular in the 17th Century because it was a society of equals, signified by the wearing of the white apron by all its members.

A place where honourable men of different religions and political differences could meet together as brothers.

The newly obligated Mason is placed with his feet in the form of a square to represent the foundation stone, in this instance a rough ashlar, an example of which is on the JW’s pedestal.

In the early ceremonies the rough ashlar would be placed at the candidate’s feet.

In the north east because in all medieval churches this was the situation of the Easter sepulchre, the symbolic tomb of Christ, and as Reverend Neville Barker Cryer explains in his book ‘What Do You Know About Ritual?’ –  “from where the first light of Easter came the promise of God’s love and care”.

This seems appropriate for this lesson on charity and brotherly love.

Having been conducted from the West and darkness, to the East in search of light, we find ourselves at a point where the first rays of the morning sun shines through ready to guide us for the rest of the day and through every day thereafter.

You now stand, to all external appearance, a just and upright Mason and I give it in strong terms of recommendation ever to continue and act as such.

Indeed, I shall immediately proceed to put your principles in some measure to the test, by calling upon you to exercise that virtue which may justly be denominated the distinguishing characteristic of a Freemason’s heart – I mean Charity.

I need not here dilate upon its excellences; no doubt it has often been felt and practiced by you.

Suffice it to say, it has the approbation of heaven and earth, and like its sister, Mercy, blesses him who gives as well as him who receives.

In order to reach this position in the Lodge you have undergone a series of examinations by senior brethren.

You have “seeked for and found” Freemasonry.

You have “asked and it has been given”.

You have “knocked and it has been opened unto you”.

You could have failed on any of these three stages. So your ‘external’ appearance is that of a just and upright man. An “Entered Apprentice”.

One who has yet to be guided and tested on his internal or moral values, the skill sets that will be set by the Master and which you could still fail if the desire to learn is not there.

What you have to learn will become apparent in discussions with senior brethren and your mentors.

In a society so widely extended as Freemasonry, the branches of which are spread over the four quarters of the globe, it cannot be denied that we have many members of rank and opulence; neither can it be concealed that among the thousands that range under its banners, there are some who perhaps from circumstances of unavoidable calamity and misfortune, are reduced To the lowest ebb of poverty and distress.

On their behalf it is our usual custom to awaken the feelings of every new made Brother by such a claim on his charity as his circumstances in life may fairly warrant.

Whatever, therefore, you feel disposed to give, you will deposit with the JD; it will be thankfully received and faithfully applied.

On every continent around the world you will find a Freemason’s Lodge.

Such is the influence of its message of equality – “Brotherly love, relief and truth”.

From aristocracy to the working classes the moment you set foot inside your Lodge there is no social status, you are all equal.

Rudyard Kipling in his poem, ‘Mother Lodge’, explains it wonderfully when he writes about his Lodge in India:


‘Outside – “Sergent! Sir! Salute! Salaam!”

Inside – “Brother” an’ it doesn’t do no ‘arm,

We met upon the level an’ we parted on the square,

An’ I was Junior Deacon in my Mother Lodge out there!

With such a membership it is natural that some may fall upon hard times through accident, illness, economic collapse or world catastrophes, none of us are really safe.

It is important, therefore, that we acknowledge this fact and embrace the opportunity to help those who are less fortunate, it could quite easily be you.

What does it feel like to have nothing? To have everything taken from you.

To be in despair not knowing when the next wage will come in to put food on the table and a roof over your family’s head.

In a somewhat dramatic way you are temporarily placed in that position and in true teaching fashion – involve me and I will understand”.

“Have you anything to give in the cause of Charity?”

“Were you deprived of everything valuable previously to entering the Lodge?” “If you had not been so deprived would you give freely?”

“WM, our new-made Brother affirms that he was deprived of everything valuable previously to entering the Lodge or he would give freely.”

Questions from the JD and his acknowledgement to the WM. It is the pause between the first and second question that a reality of the situation becomes apparent.

More so, perhaps, for those who in society have wanted for nothing and for the first time having to think about it.

Stripping away all the social and economic trappings and exposing the man, his character and his beliefs.

A man wearing that white apron the same as every other man in that room who has been through the same experience.

It is an experience that unites us as equals and bonds us as brothers.

I congratulate you on the honourable sentiments by which you are actuated; likewise on the inability which in the present instance preclude you from gratifying them.

Believe me, this trial was not made with a view to sport with your feelings. It was done for three especial reasons:

It is here that the WM explains why you had to go through that learning experience

When you went through the interview process the brethren would have brought to your attention the fact that we are, in part, a charity fund raising institution.

So it is important that the brethren see that you are a charitable person.

First, as I have already premised, to put your principles to the test;

Secondly, to evince the Brethren that you had neither money nor metalic substance about you, for if you had, the ceremony thus far, must have been repeated

Yes, such is the importance that you enter Freemasonry with only the “tongue of good report” as your qualification.

You cannot buy your entrance or force your way in. It is about who you are as a man and your desire to improve as a Mason, for All men are created equal (Thomas Jefferson, 1776)

And thirdly, as a warning to your heart, that should you at any future period meet a Brother in distressed circumstances who might solicit your assistance, you will remember the peculiar moment you were received into Masonry, poor and penniless, and cheerfully embrace the opportunity of practicing that virtue you have professed to admire. 

For a brief moment you had an experience of what it could be like to have nothing but your reputation as a good man.

Remember that experience as it is one every Freemason has gone through. It is something we share in common and bonds us as brothers, ever remember –


Brotherly love, relief and truth.

previous chapter
continue reading next chapter
Jacob's Ladder

What do you know about ritual? Revd Neville Barker Cryer, 2008

Lodge of Union No. 38 Ritual Book, 2005.

U.S. Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, 1776.

Article by: Stephen J. Goulding

Stephen was initiated into Freemasonry in 1978 in Tylney Lodge No. 5856 (UGLE). He was Master in 1989 & 2004.

He was Master of the Lodge of Union 38 (UGLE) in 2018. He is also a PZ in the Holy Royal Arch and PM in the Mark Degree.

Stephen served 30 years in the Metropolitan Police Service (London, England) before going into education in 2000, where he became a college lecturer and a mentor for both the college and the University of Greenwich (London, England). Now retired, he teaches Tai Chi and Qigong in the community.

Facebook: Steve Goulding-Tai Chi West Sussex–Chi at Chi


Recent Articles: in this tutorial series

The First Degree Lecture - P2

William Preston (1742 – 1818) gives his lectures in the form of a Catechism – questions and answers - and broken down into seven bite size chunks. This article is the first of the seven part series presented by Steve Goulding


The First Degree Lecture - P1

William Preston (1742 – 1818) gives his lectures in the form of a Catechism – questions and answers - and broken down into seven bite size chunks. This article is the first of the seven part series presented by Steve Goulding


Morality veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols

A phrase that immediately comes to mind when describing Freemasonry – Morality veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols. Let us have a look at what this phrase actually means.


Vows of Fidelity

The taking of a ‘Vow of Fidelity’. Oaths, Vows and Covenants



When we look at the ritual book the deacons are told to ‘perambulate’ with the candidate. So what does this really mean?


The North East Corner: A Lesson on Charity

The ritual of the North East corner is a powerful piece of teaching. Let us examine that piece of ritual more closely; the lesson on charity.


Jacob's Ladder

On the First Degree tracing board the most dominant feature is Jacob’s Ladder stretching from Earth to Heaven. Being straight, it is the shortest and quickest way to reach heaven, and being straight you can see the end goal.


The Winding Staircase

Steps to the Making of a Master. The symbolism of each step of the winding staircase is to continue your personal development throughout your life, right up to your last breath in this world.


The Charges in Each Degree

The ‘Old Charges’ have come down to us, containing the rules and regulations by which Lodges should be run and the moral and social standards to which each Lodge member should adhere.


Commentary on the Charge after Initiation

A more detailed explanation in order for us to understand the Charge after Initiation


Commentary on the Second Degree Charge

In the second degree we learn about being an educated man. Skilful, not only in the Craft itself but also how to communicate and manage others. This Commentary looks at the second degree charge in detail.


Commentary on the Third Degree Charge

The Third Degree Charge invites the candidate to reflect on his life as both a ‘moral’ and ‘educated’ man, and to contemplate on what may be missing in his life. The ‘genuine secrets of a Master Mason’.


Officers of the Royal Arch - The Janitor

Who is the Janitor, What is your destiny? going beyond yourself spiritually


Officers of the Royal Arch - The Sojourners

Who are the Sojourners , Having self-respect you never compare yourself to others


Officers of the Royal Arch - Scribe Nehemiah

In order to achieve enlightenment it is necessary to have an 'inner peace', a calmness of the mind in the midst of turmoil and stress.


Officers of the Royal Arch - Scribe Ezra
When we describe faith what do we mean? 


Officers of the Royal Arch The Principals – Spirituality

Who were the Principals and how do they link Spirituality


Officers of the Lodge - Tyler

Who is the Tyler being placed outside the door of the lodge, symbolically to protect our moral selves.


Officers of the Lodge - Inner Guard

Who is the Inner Guard – Instinct 


Officers of the Lodge - Deacons

Who are the Deacons ? - The most important aspect of communication is not only to listen but to hear. Hear both what is and what isn’t being said.


Officers of the Lodge - Junior Warden

Officers of the Lodge - Who is the Junior Warden? – Spiritual Consciousness


Officers of the Lodge - Senior Warden

Who is the Senior Warden – Your very essence


Officers of the Lodge - Worshipful Master

Who is the Worshipful Master being placed in the east? your spirit, the quality of your purpose in life.


masonic knowledge

to be a better citizen of the world

share the square with two brothers

click image to open email app on mobile device

Masonic Apparel

made to order

Share this article ....