The First Degree Lecture – P3

The First Degree Lecture, Section three, by William Preston.

Video Presentation

Continuing with our Masonic education, I once again refer to the catechism written by William Preston on the First Degree Lecture. 

We take up the process of the ‘Making of a Mason’ immediately after the obligation has been taken by the ‘Initiate’

Again I have added some notes which I hope will assist you in understanding this section of the First Degree.

Q – After you were raised from your kneeling posture, what were you enabled to discover?
A- The three Lesser Lights.
Q.- How are they situated?
A- East, South, and West.
Q – For what purpose?
A – To show the due course of the Sun, which rises in the East, gains its meridian lustre in the South, and sets in the West; likewise to light men to, at, and from labour.
Q – Why is there none in the North?
A – The Sun being then below our horizon, darts no ray of light from that quarter to this our hemisphere.

(NOTE: These observations are based on the ritual taking place in the Northern Hemisphere.)

Q – What do those three lesser lights represent?
A – The Sun, Moon, and Master of the Lodge.
Q – Why the Sun, Moon, and Master?
A – The Sun to rule the day, the Moon to govern the night, and the Master to rule and direct his Lodge.
Q – Why is the Master of a Freemason’s Lodge compared to those grand luminaries?
A – As it is by the benign influence of the Sun and Moon that we, as men, are enabled to perform the duties of social life, so it is by the kind care and instruction of the Worshipful. Master, that we, as Masons, are enabled to perform those duties the Craft require of us.

(NOTE: Both the Sun and the Moon provide light. The Moon reflecting the light of the Sun. It is by that light that we, as Masons, are able to see the work that we do under the guidance and instruction of the Worshipful Master. The Master gets his instruction from those Three Great Emblematical Lights, the V.S.L., the Square and the Compasses. In the address to the Wardens they are reminded that their duty is to assist the Worshipful Master in the ‘communication of Light and the imparting of knowledge’.)

Q – After the lesser lights were explained how did the Master address you?
A – Brother A. B., by your meek and candid behaviour this evening, you have escaped two great dangers, but there is a third which will await you until the latest period of your existence. The ((a) symbolic) dangers you have escaped are those of ………….. and ……………….. for on your entrance into the Lodge this ……….. was presented to your naked left breast, so that had you rashly attempted to rush forward, you would have been accessory to your own ………. by ………… whilst the Brother who held it would have remained firm, and done his duty. There was likewise this Cabletow with a running noose about ………….. which would have rendered any attempt at retreat equally fatal; but the ((b) symbolic) danger which will await you until your latest hour is the penalty of your obligation, having your throat cut across, your tongue torn from its roots and your body buried in the rough sands of the sea whence the tide doth wash twice in the course of a natural day, should you improperly disclose the Secrets of Masonry.

(NOTE: (a) A symbolic precaution to protect Freemasons and Freemasonry.
(b) A symbolic penalty reflecting 16th and 17th century punishments that were given at that time by a Court of Law.)

Q – How did he further address you?
A – Having taken the Great and Solemn Obligation of a Mason, I am now permitted to inform you that there are several Degrees in Freemasonry, and peculiar secrets restricted to each. These, however, are not communicated indiscriminately, but are conferred on candidates according to merit and abilities. I shall therefore, proceed to intrust you with the secrets of this Degree, or those marks by which we are known to each other, and distinguished from the rest of the world; but must premise for your general information, that all Squares, Levels and Perpendiculars are true and proper signs to know a Mason by; you are therefore expected to stand perfectly erect, your feet formed in a Square; your body being thus considered an emblem of your mind, and your feet of the rectitude of your actions.
Q – What did the Master. then direct you to do?
A – Take a step towards him with my left foot, bringing the right heel. into its hollow; that, he informed me, is the first regular step in Freemasonry and it is in this position that the signs of the degree are communicated.

(NOTE: From a position where the feet were in the form of a Square and your body was upright to represent the Plumb rule, (square conduct and upright intentions) you have taken a step where your feet now represent a Level. You have taken a Level step. An advancement in geometry. A step that is sincere and honest. Not attempting to deceive.)

Q – Of what do those signs consist ?
A – A Sign, Token, and Word.
Q – I will thank you for the Sign in due form.
A – (Which is given.)
Q – Communicate the Token to.
A – (Which is done.)
Q – Is that correct?
A – It is, Worshipful Master.
Q – What does that demand?
A – A Word
Q – Give me that Word
A – At my initiation I was taught to be cautious; but with you as a brother I will letter or halve it with you.
Q – Which you please, and begin.
A – (It is then given.)
Q – Whence is this Word derived?
A – From the left hand pillar at the Porchway or Entrance. of King Solomon’s Temple, so named after the Great Grandfather of David and a Prince and Ruler in Israel.
Q – The import of the Word?
A – In Strength

(NOTE: The strength that you take with you are the V.S.L., the Square and the Compasses. The Sacred Writings to govern your Faith, the Square to regulate your actions and the Compasses to keep you in due bounds with mankind. This strength that you will have with you for eternity.)

Q – Having been Obligated and intrusted, were you invested?
A -I was, with the distinguishing badge of a Mason, which the Senior Warden informed me is more ancient than the Golden Fleece, or Roman Eagle, more honourable than the Garter, or any other Order in existence, being the badge of innocence, and the bond of friendship: he strongly exhorted me ever to wear and consider it as such; and further informed me, that if I never disgraced that badge, it would never disgrace me.

(NOTE: A badge worn with pride by every Freemason. A badge that has a meaning which is so strong it unites us as Brothers. A badge that represents the innocence of a lamb and purity of the heart. It represents honour and a virtuous life given over to Faith, Hope and Charity.)

Q – Repeat the address you then received from the Master.
A – Let me add to the observations of the Senior Warden, that you are never to put on that badge should you be about to visit a Lodge in which there is a Brother with whom you are at variance, or against whom you entertain animosity; in such cases, it is expected that will invite him to withdraw, in order amicably to settle your differences, which being happily effected, you may then clothe yourselves, enter the Lodge, and work with that love and harmony which should at all times characterise Freemasons. But if, unfortunately, your differences be of such a nature as not to be so easily adjusted, it were better one or both of you retire, than that the that harmony of the Lodge should be disturbed by your presence.

(NOTE: I would urge you to read this address several times in order to reflect upon its significance, that of working together in harmony. Our Lodges are places of safety for all no matter what class, race, religious or cultural background. We are all ‘Brothers’ with the same aim in view. Brotherly love, Relief and Truth.)

Q – Where were you then ordered to be placed?
A – At the North East part of the Lodge
Q – Repeat the charge.
A – 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 placed 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.

(NOTE: The Nort East part of any structure in the Northern Hemisphere is where the first rays of the Sun enter the building to start the day and thereby having a full day receiving the Light of learning.)

You now stand to all external appearance a just and upright Mason, and I give it you 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 on 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 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 who 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 Junior Deacon; it will be thankfully received, and faithfully applied.
Q – Your answer?
A – That I had been divested of everything valuable previously to entering the Lodge, or I would give freely.

(NOTE: This is the important lesson of this degree, Charity. It is an experience every Freemasons has to go through. It awakens the mind to the importance of Charity and bonds us as Brothers together working for the same outcome. Being a better man building a better world.)

Q – The Master’s reply?
A – I congratulate you on the honourable sentiments by which you are actuated, likewise on the inability which in the present instance precludes you from gratifying them; believe me, this trial was not made with a view to sport with your feelings; far be from us any such intention; it was done for three especial reasons.
Q – The first of those reasons?
A – To put my principles to the test.
Q – The second?
A – To evince to the Brethren that I had neither metal nor metallic substance about me, for if I had, the ceremony of my initiation, thus far must have been repeated.

(NOTE: This is to reinforce that sentiment of joining the Order with nothing but the ‘tongue of good report’ in your favour. The reputation of being a good man and the desire to be an even better one.)

Q – The third?
A – As a warning to my own heart, that should I at any future period meet a brother in distressed circumstances who might solicit my assistance, I would remember the peculiar moment I was received into Masonry, poor and penniless and cheerfully embrace the opportunity of practicing that virtue I had professed to admire.

(NOTE: The lesson on Charity clearly explained. Helping others whatever way we can without detriment to ourselves or our connections.)

Q – What did the Master then present to you?
A – The working tools of an Entered Apprentice Freemason which are the 24-inch Gauge, the common Gavel and Chisel.
Q – Their uses?
A – The 24-inch Gauge is to measure our work, the common Gavel to knock off all superfluous knobs and excrescences, and the Chisel to further smooth and prepare the stone, and render it fit for the hands of the more expert workman.
Q – But as we are not all operative Masons, but rather Free and Accepted, or speculative, how do we apply these tools to our morals?
A – In this sense, the 24-inch Gauge represents the 24 hours of the day, part to be spent in prayer to Almighty God, part in labour and refreshment, and part in serving a Friend or Brother in time of need, without detriment to ourselves or connections.

NOTE: It reinforces the fact that you have a limited time on this earth. Spend that time wisely. It is the most precious of commodities.)

The common Gavel represents the force of conscience, which should keep down all vain and unbecoming thoughts which might obtrude during any of the aforementioned periods, so that our words and actions may ascend unpolluted to the throne of grace.

(NOTE: Reinforcing virtuous behaviour. Chipping away at that rough ashlar, ourselves, in order to make it smoother, a better product that fits perfectly into a well organised society.)

The Chisel points out to us the advantages of education, by which means alone we are rendered fit members of regularly organised society.

(NOTE: Education and personal development is for life. The world is ever changing and progressing, so should we. Make a daily advancement in Masonic Knowledge in order to keep up with change and remain relevant.)

Q – How did the Master then address you?
A – As in the course of the evening you will be called on for certain fees for your initiation, it is proper you should know by what authority we act. This is our charter or warrant from the Grand Lodge of England, which is for your inspection on this or any future evening. This is the book of Constitutions, and these are our byelaws, both of which I recommend to your serious perusal, as by one you will be instructed in the duties you owe to the craft in general, and by the other, in those you owe to this Lodge in particular.

(NOTE: You entered a Lodge ‘Just, Perfect and Regular’. ‘Just’ relates to the V.S.L. whish must be open. ‘Perfect’ relates to the number of Masons present – seven or more. A Lodge is ‘Regular’ when the Charter or Warrant of the Lodge is displayed.)

Q – What permission did you then receive?
A – To retire, in order to restore myself to my personal comforts, and the Worshipful Master informed me that on my return to the Lodge he would call my attention to a charge, founded on the excellences of the Institution and the qualifications of its members.
Q – When placed at the North East part of the Lodge, assisted by the three lesser lights, what were you enabled to discover?
A – The form of the Lodge.
Q – What form?
A – A parallelopipedon.

(NOTE: A parallelopipedon is a three-dimensional figure formed by six parallelograms.)

Q – Describe its dimensions.
A – In length from East to West, in breadth between North and South, in depth from the surface of the earth to the centre, and even as high as the Heavens.
Q – Why is a Freemason’s Lodge described of this vast extent?
A – To show the universality of the science; likewise, that a Mason’s charity should know no bounds save those of prudence.
Brethren, this ends the third section of the first lecture:
All poor and distressed Masons, where ever dispersed over the face of earth, and Water, wishing them a speedy relief from their sufferings, and a safe return to their native country, if they desire it.

(NOTE: The Ritual reinforces the fact that a newly initiated brother is an apprentice’, “a person who is learning a trade from a skilled worker”. The ‘trade’ is to be a Freemason, a moral, educated and charitable man of faith.)

continue reading next chapter
The First Degree Lecture - P4

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


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