SHORT TALK BULLETIN - Vol.III     April, 1925     No.4

by: Unknown

You are taught that, as an Entered Apprentice, you are  passing through the period of early Masonic youth.  As a  Fellowcraft, should you attain that higher estate, you will learn  your condition then, is emblematic of manhood; while as a Master  Mason, if it is your happy fortune ever to be raised to the  Light, you will learn that true Freemasonry makes a man sure of a  well spent life, and gives him assurance of a glorious  immortality.

When newly born into the world, a human baby is the most  helpless of all animals.  His first tender years are wholly a  time of learning; learning to eat, learning to manage his  members, learning to walk, learning to make himself understood,  learning to understand.  The period you, as an Entered  Apprentice, must spend before you can receive the degree of  Fellowcraft corresponds to these early years of childhood; you  must learn to manage your Masonic Members, you must learn to  understand Masonic language and to make yourself understood in  it.

The Entered Apprentice is more like a child in an  institution than like one in a home.  In the home the child has  the undivided attention of his parents; in the institution he  has, necessarily, only the divided attention of those who must  mother and father many children, and the help he individually  receives is less as the number who claim it is greater.  The  lodge is an institution; as an Entered Apprentice you will  receive careful instruction in the necessary arts of Masonry, in  so far as you are prepared to receive them, but, obviously, there  can be no coddling, no tender individual attentions to you which  are not also given to all other Entered Apprentices of your  lodge.

One child stands out above another in its development in an  institution because of its inherent brightness, and because of  its willingness to study and to learn.  As an Entered Apprentice  Mason you will stand out above your fellows as you pay strict  attention to those brethren who are your instructors, and as you  are willing to study and learn.  For your monitors, my brother,  no matter how great their erudition, and how large their charity  and willingness to serve you, can only point for you the path,  and give you those elementary instructions in Masonry which are  the minimum with which you can walk onward.

Your feet have been set upon a path.  In your hands has been  thrust the staff of ritual, the bread of knowledge and the water  of prayer.  With these alone you can proceed up the path until  you come to the wall marked “Fellowcraft,” and the straight gate  through which you can pass only if you have digested the bread,  drunk the water and still have your staff.  But you can climb  quicker, see more of the beauties by the way, and arrive with  greater strength for the next highway upon which you will travel,  if you are not content with the least which you if you may take  as aids, but demand a greater equipment.

There are books, my brother; many, many books.  First, there  is what is known as the Monitor of your jurisdiction; a small  book which contains all of the ritual of all of the degrees,  which may be printed.  A careful study of it will recall to your  mind much that you heard while receiving your first degree, and  suggests many questions to your mind; questions which any  thinking candidate must ask, and queries which, answered, will  make him a better Entered Apprentice.  The answers to many of  these questions you will find in many good books on Freemasonry. 

Any Entered Apprentice who will read and ponder a good volume  which deals with the first degree of Freemasonry, will approach  the West Gate for his Fellowcraft degree in a more humble  attitude and a more confident heart than he who is satisfied  merely with his staff, his bread and his water.

For consider, my brother; Freemasonry is old, very old.  No man knoweth just how old, but deep students of the art have gathered unimpeachable evidence; evidence of the character which  would be convincing in a court of law, that the principles which  underlie Freemasonry  and which are taught in its symbolism, go back beyond the dawn of  written history.  Freemasonry’s symbols are found wherever the  physical evidences of ancient civilizations are unearth.  Secret  orders of all ages, all climes, all peoples, have, independently  of each other, sought the Great Truths along the same paths, and  concealed what they found in much the same symbols.  Freemasonry  is the repository of the learning of the ages, a storehouse of  the truths of life and death, religion and immortality; aye, even  of the truths we know regarding the Great Architect of the  Universe, which have been painfully won, word by word and line by  line, from the books of nature and of the inquiring mind, by  literally thousands of generations of men.

No man has  mind big enough, quick enough, open enough to  absorb and understand in an evening even the introduction to what  Freemasonry knows; not in a month of evenings!  No degree, no  matter how impressively performed, can possibly take him far  along this road.  All that the Entered Apprentice degree can do  is to point the way, and give you the sustenance by which you may  travel.

You may travel with your ears closed, and your eyes upon the  ground.  You will arrive, physically, even as a traveller with  bandaged eyes may arrive after a toilsome journey.  But to travel  thus is not to learn.  And the Freemason who does not learn, what  sort of Freemason is he?  Pin wearer, only; denying himself the  greatest opportunity given to man to make of himself truly one of  the greatest brotherhood the world has ever known.

Therefore, my brother entered Apprentice, use the month or  more which is given you between this and the Fellowcraft Degree,  not only to receive your monitorial instruction and learn, letter  perfect, the ritual in which much more is hidden than is  revealed, but also to investigate for yourself; to read for your- self; to learn, for yourself, the meaning of some of our symbols  and how they came to be.

You will find Masons who will say to you that all of Masonry  which any man needs to know is found in the degrees.  So will you  find those who say to you that all any man needs to know of God  or religion is found in the Great Light which rests upon our Holy  Altar.  But be not discouraged by these, my brother, nor put your  faith in the vision of any Mason; the only eyes with which you  may truly see are your own; the only faith which is truly  valuable to any man, is his own.  Reason it out for yourself;  every man needs an education in Holy Writ, to expound for him the  hidden truths which are in the Great Light, therefore you require  some writer or student to expound for you the hidden truths which  are in Masonry’s Ritual and Symbols.  But a legion of devoted men  of God have spent thousands of years digging in the Book of  Books, and always have they discovered some new gold.  With no  irreverence, nor any comparison of the fundamentals of  Freemasonry with the Bible, it can be said that generations of  men have sought in the mountain which is Freemasonry for the gold  which is Truth of God, and found it; and that without such  patient and delving, the gold could not be seen.  Do you then,  dig for yourself, but dig by the light of the lamps lit by those  who have gone this way before you.

This United States of ours has its ritual; its Declaration  of Independence, its Constitution, its Bill of Rights.  Doubtless  you have read all of these; perhaps in school, you memorized  them, as now you must memorize Masonic ritual.  But you would not  contend that the mere learning by heart of the Declaration of  Independence or the Constitution ever made any man an authority  upon them, nor that the foreigner investigating our institutions  for the first time could become a good American merely by such  memorization.  We require the highest tribunal in all the world,  the supreme Court, to interpret to us our own Constitution, and  not yet have any of our legislators come to the end of the  meanings of those liberties for which we declared when this  country first lifted up its head among the nations of the world,  and cried the birth cry.

As an Entered Apprentice you are barely born, Masonically.   You must learn, my brother, and learn well, if you are to enter  into our heritage.  That which is worth living, in this world, is  worth working for; indeed, as you know from your experience in  life, anything which you must not work for, turns soon to ashes  in your mouth.  Without labor, there can be no rest; without work  there can be no vacation; without pain, there can be no pleasure;  without sorrow, there is no joy.  And equally true it is, that  while men do receive the degrees of Masonry at the hands of their  brethren, there is no Freemasonry in a man’s heart if he has not  been willing to sacrifice some time, give some effort, some  study, ask some questions. digest some philosophy, to make it  truly his own.

A certain ceremony through which you recently passed not  only has the immediate and obvious significance of charity to the  deserving; a man may be divested of all wealth to teach him  something else than the giving of alms and the succoring of the  distressed.  If you will suppose yourself marooned upon a desert  island, the only man upon land shut in by the sea, you will  readily recognize that all the wealth of the Indies might be of  less real value to you than a box of matches, a cup of water, a  tool of iron.  The richest man in the world could gain nothing  with his gold if he were forced to live at the poles of the  earth.  Money is only of value where material things may be  obtained by bartering labor.  A man may be moneyless and still  wealthy, as you might be upon your desert island if you had  tools, nails, and materials with which to build yourself a boat  in order to make your escape.

So this ceremony, which you have already been taught, was  not performed to trifle with your feeling, should make not only a  deep and lasting impression on your mind as to charity and giving  aid, but should serve to point out to you that  Freemasonry’s  deepest and truest treasures are those of the mind and heart; not  to be bought, not to be received as a free gift, not to be found,  not to be obtained by you in any way whatsoever except by patient  search, and willing, happy labor.

Read, my brother; read symbolism and read a history of  Freemasonry; read the Old Charges; read your Monitor.  Read,  study, and digest; make you own sum of a store of knowledge which  is Freemasonry’s; make of yourself an Entered Apprentice in the  hidden as well as the literal sense of the word.

You are called an “Entered Apprentice” when there has been  performed over you and with you, a certain ceremony, but you  cannot in reality be “entered” unless you are willing to enter.  

There is homely truth in many an old saying.  The horse who is  led to water will only drink if he is thirsty; no man can make  him swallow if he will not.  Freemasonry, which has conferred  upon you the distinction of its First Degree, has brought you  through a green pasture and made you to lie down beside a still  water of its truth.  But there lives not the Grand Master of any  Jurisdiction, all powerful in Freemasonry though he is, who can  make you drink of those waters; there lives not the man, be he  King, Prince or Potentate with no matter what temporal power or  what strength of Army or of Wealth, who can force you through the  door your brethren have swung wide at your approach.

The pathway is before you.  The staff, the bread and the  water are in your hand.  Whether you will travel blindly and in  want, or eagerly and with joy depends only and wholly upon you.  And very largely upon what you now do, how soon you emerge  from your swaddling clothes and how well you learn will depend  the epitaph some day to be written of your memory on the hearts  of your fellow lodge members; it is for you to decide whether  they will say of you: 

“Just another lodge member,” or “A True  Freemason, a Faithful Son of Light.”