Friday, February 25, 2011

A Short Talk to an Entered Apprentice

Initiation is an analogy of man's advent from prenatal darkness into the light of human fellowship, moral truth, and spiritual faith.

From the Latin "initium" a beginning, a birth, a coming into being. It is a very common human experience. We are initiated into a new world when we first go to school, adolescence is initiation into manhood, we undergo an initiation when we plunge into business or our professions' marriage is an initiation into a new experience, a new way of living, a new outlook on life' the acceptance of a religious experience is an initiation' a new book may initiate us into a new interest. Initiation is everywhere and in one or another form comes to every man.

THE first, or Entered Apprentice degree of Masonry, is intended, symbolically, to represent the entrance of man into the world, in which he is after wards to become a living and thinking part. Coming from the ignorance and darkness of the outer world, his first craving is for light—not the physical light , but the moral and intellectual light which emanates from the primal Source of all things—from the Grand Architect of the Universe—the Creator of the sun and of all that it illuminates. Hence the primary object of the first degree, is to symbolize that birth of intellectual light into the mind, and seeking for the light which is to guide his steps and point him to the path which leads to morality.

A candidate for the Entered Apprentice Degree who is not sincere will have a very disagreeable time in Freemasonry. But the hidden meaning of the rite is perhaps even more important than the explained meaning. The initiate must possess his soul in patience. He is not yet wholly admitted to the temple which is Freemasonry. He is not permitted to do as Master Masons do, or to know what Master Masons know. For the whole Masonic significance of the rite he must wait until it is his privilege to receive the Sublime Degree of Master Mason.

The b f represents the inability of the candidate to learn the secrets of Freemasonry in an improper way. Essentially it represents a state of ignorance. In the first degree it is removed after the candidate declares his wish to seek the ‘light’ of Freemasonry. A further significant teaching of this symbol is its introduction to the idea of dependence. Masonry teaches us, simply but unmistakably, at the first step as at the last, that we live and walk by faith, not by sight; and to know that fact is the beginning of wisdom. Since this is so, since no man can find his way alone, in life as in the lodge we must in humility trust our Guide, learn His ways, follow Him and fear no danger.

The preparations to which the candidate must submit, before entering the Lodge, serve allegorically to teach him, as well as to remind the brethren who are present, that it is the man alone, divested of all the outward recommendations of rank, state, or of riches, which Masonry accepts, and that it is his spiritual, or moral worth alone, which can open for him the door of the temple.

The c t is representative of the bond to the fraternity. In early Freemasonry it was used as a symbol representing the candidates submission to the authority of Freemasonry, humility, servitude and even a possible penalty should the candidate betray the trust placed upon him.

The initiate takes an obligation of secrecy; if he will carefully consider the language of that obligation, he will see that it concerns the forms and ceremonies, the manner of teaching, certain modes of recognition. There is no obligation of secrecy regarding the truths taught by Freemasonry, otherwise it would not lawfully have  been written. 

Sometimes the question is asked by people, "Why have any secrets? If what you know and teach is worth so much, why not give it to the world?" Secrecy is a common fact of everyday life. Our private affairs are ours, not to be shouted from the housetops. Business secrets are often of value in proportion to the success of keeping them. Diplomacy is necessarily conducted in secret. Board meetings of companies, banks, business houses, are secret. A man and his wife have private understandings for no one else to know. From all of us some things are secret and hidden that might be open and known - if we would take the trouble to learn. Fine music is a secret from the tone deaf. Mathematics is a secret from the ignorant. Philosophy is a secret from the commonplace mind. Freemasonry is a secret from the unworthy - and for the same reasons!

The secrecy of Masonry is an honorable secrecy; any good man may ask for her secrets; those who are worthy will receive them. To give them to those who do not seek, or who are not worthy, would but impoverish the Fraternity.

It is sometimes suggested that Freemasonry pretends to possess valuable secrets merely to intrigue men to apply for them through curiosity. He who seeks Freemasonry out of curiosity for her secrets must be bitterly disappointed. In school the teacher is anxious to instruct all who seek the classroom in the secrets of geometry, but not all students wish to study geometry and not all who do wish have the inclination. Freemasonry is anxious to give of her secrets to worthy men fit to receive them but not all are worthy, and not all the worthy men seek enlightenment.

Freemasonry has been aptly described as "the gentle Craft." Its teachings are of brotherly love, relief, truth, love of God, charity, immortality, mutual help, sympathy. To the initiate, therefore, the penalty in his obligation comes often with a shock of surprise and sometimes consternation. The only punishments ever inflicted by Freemasons upon Freemasons are reprimand, suspension, and expulsion from the Fraternity. The initiate who violates his obligation will feel the weight of no hand laid upon him. He will suffer no physical penalties whatever. The contempt and detestation of his brethren, their denial of the privileges of Freemasonry, are the only Masonic penalties ever inflicted.

There are three lights of Masonry the VSL, the Square, and the Compass. The VSL, our Great Light in Masonry, is opened upon our altars. Upon it lie the other Great Lights - the Square and the Compass. Without all three no Masonic lodge can exist, much less open or work. Together with the warrant from the Grand Lodge they are indispensable.

The charity taught in the lodge is charity of thought, charity of the giving of self. The brotherly hand laid upon a bowed shoulder in comfort and to give courage is Masonic charity. 

In the Entered Apprentice's Degree the initiate is taught the necessity of a belief in God; of charity toward all mankind, "more especially a brother Mason"; of secrecy; the meaning of brotherly love; the reasons for relief; the greatness of truth; the advantages of temperance; the value of fortitude; the part played in Masonic life by prudence, and the equality of strict justice.

He is charged to be reverent before God, to pray to Him for help, to venerate Him as the source of all that is good. He is exhorted to practice the Golden Rule and to avoid excesses of all kinds. He is admonished to be quiet and peaceable, not to countenance disloyalty and rebellion, to be true and just to government and country, to be cheerful under its laws. He is charged to come often to lodge but not to neglect his business, not to argue about Freemasonry with the ignorant but to learn Masonry, from Masons, and once again to be secret. Finally he is urged to present only such candidates as he is sure will agree to all that he has agreed to.

The above talk was given by me in Lodge Kohinoor #139 on 23 Feb 2011, Wednesday. I am not the author of this piece but have taken bits and pieces of various articles of many renowned masonic experts and joined them together. All errors are entirely mine.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Legend of the Quatuor Coronati

The Legend of the Quatuor Coronati is very interesting to Freemasons because in the legend, as in the Arundel MS.—a transcript of the more important portions of which follows—the Quatuor were originally four Craftsmen by name Claudius, Castorius, Simphorianus, and Nicostratus, "mirificos in arte quadrataria," which though it is translated the "art of carving," is literally "the stone-squarer’s art," or the art of stone-squaring. They are distinctly called "artifices," artificers, although as the legend shows us, to the four artificers are joined four milites; whilst one Simplicius, converted to Christianity by the four during the progress of events narrated by the legend, is added to the stone-squarers, making nine in all. They are declared to be Christians, "occulte," secretly. Diocletian ordered an image of Æsculapius to be made, and after a contest and dialogue with "quinque Philosophi" Simphorianus, who appears to be the leader and spokesman, adds Simplicius to the number—now five—and refuses, on their behalf and with their consent, to make the image. They are brought before Lampadius the Tribune, who after reference to Diocletian orders them to be stripped and beaten with scorpions, "scorpionibus mactari," and then, by Diocletian’s order; they were place in "loculi plumbei," leaden coffins, and cast into the Tiber.

A certain Nicodemus is said to have raised the coffins and taken them to his own house; levavit says the legend.

Two years afterwards Diocletian ordered the soldiers to pay homage to a Statue of Æsculapius, but four "Cornicularii," or wing-leaders of the city militia, refused. They were ordered to be put to death in front of the image of Æsculapius by strokes of the Plumbata, "ictu plumbatarum." and their bodies cast into the streets to the dogs, where they lay five days.

The Arundel Legend is taken from a fine MS. of the 12th century, in the British Museum. Its proper reference is Ar: MSS., 91, f. 2186. There is another copy of the legend in the British Museum, Harleian MSS., No. 2802, f 99. There is also a short notice of the Quatuor Coronati in Regius MS., 8, c, 7 f 165, of the 14th century.

A variation on the legend:

When in 298 A.D. the Emporer Diocletian was building his baths on the necks of the Quirinal and Virminal hills he included within its vast circuit a temple to Æsculapius, the god of health. He ordered the five sculptors, Claudius, Nicostratus, Sinforianus, Castorinus, and Simplicius to execute the decorative work and make the statue of Æsculapius. Being Christians they refused to fashion the statue of a pagan god, and in consequence they were put to death on the 8th November, 298. Three were beheaded and two were scourged to death. Other artists were found who executed the work for the Emporer. On the return of Diocletian to Rome in 300, finding the works completed, he issued an order for their dedication, and commanded that all the soldiers in Rome should be present, who, as they marched past, were to throw incense over the alter of Æsculapius. As soon as this command was propagated, four brothers, who were master masons, and held the position of Corniculari, or wing-leaders of the city militia, met to decide what they should do under the circumstances. These brothers were named Severus, Severianus, Carporferus, and Victorianus, who, besides being Masons, had embraced the christian faith. They all agreed to abstain from throwing the incense over the alter, it being against their principles to assist in any way at pagan ceremonies of a religious nature. This determination they made known to their centurion, who communicated it to the tribune, Lampadius, who reported the matter to Diocletian. The emporer ordered them either to sacrifice or suffer death. They, steadfast to their faith, suffered death by being scourged with leaden thongs. Their bodies were then enclosed in leaden cases and thrown into the river Tiber. A brother, Nicodemus, recovered their bodies from the river, and they were interred by the side of the five sculptors previously martyred, and other saints, in the catacombs on the Via Labricana, which from the four Master Masons are to this day known as the Catacombs of the Quattro Coronati.