(from The Universal Book of Craft Masonry)
Freemasonry consists of a body of men banded together to preserve the secrets, customs and ceremonials handed down to them from time immemorial, and for the purpose of mutual intellectual, social and moral improvement. They also endeavour to cultivate and exhibit brotherly love, relief and truth, not only to one another, but to the world at large.
Freemasonry offers no pecuniary advantages whatever, neither does there exist any obligation nor implied understanding binding one Mason to deal with another, nor to support him in any way in the ordinary business relations of life.
Freemasonry teaches us to remember our common origin; it also distinctly enjoins us to respect all social distinctions, so that while some must rule, others must obey and cheerfully accept their inferior positions.
Freemasonry has certain charities, but it is not in any sense whatever a benefit society, nor is it based on any calculations which would render this possible. The charities are solely for those who having been in good circumstances have been overtaken by misfortune or adversity, and they are quite insufficient to meet even these demands now made upon them.
Freemasonry distinctly teaches that a man's first duty is to himself, his wife, his family and his connections, and no one should join the Order who cannot well afford to pay the initiation fees and subscriptions to his Lodge as well as to the Masonic charities, and this without detriment in any way to his comfort, or to that of those who have any claim upon his support.
Freemasonry recognizes no distinctions of religion, but none should attempt to enter who have no religious belief, as faith in a Deity must be expressed before any can be initiated, and prayers to Him form a frequent part of the ritual.
Freemasonry, therefore, demands that everyone before offering himself as a candidate, should be well assured in his own mind:
1. That he sincerely desires the intellectual and moral improvement of himself and his fellow creatures, and that he is willing to devote part of his time, means and efforts to the promotion of brotherly love, relief and trust.
2. That he seeks no commercial, social nor pecuniary advantages.
3. That he is able to afford the necessary expenditure without injury to himself or connections.
4. That he is willing to enter into solemn obligations in the sight of his God.
The Officers of the Lodge
Each Lodge elects the following officers every year:
Worshipful Master Chairman of the Lodge.
Immediate Past Master Last year's Worshipful Master.
Senior Warden Personal officer of WM; next year's WM in most lodges.
Junior Warden Personal officer of WM and next in seniority.
Chaplain The officer who conducts prayers. Can be a man of any profession in the outside world, not necessarily a clergyman.
Treasurer The senior officer in charge of the Lodge funds.
Director of Ceremonies In charge of the ritual element of Lodge business.
Senior Deacon The Deacons - with their wands - play an important part in Lodge ritual,
Junior Deacon including acting the role of messengers.
Charity Steward Officer in charge of the Lodge's donations to charity.
Almoner Officer in charge of collecting and spending the Lodge's benevolent funds.
Assistant Director of Ceremonies Self-explanatory.
Inner Guard Officer who guards the door of the Lodge on the inside and ensures that only Freemasons enter.
Tyler The outer guard who stands outside the Lodge door with a dagger as the first line of defence against non-Masons trying to enter.
Initiation to the First Degree up to the end of the Obligation
The Tyler prepares the Candidate in a room outside the Lodge room where he is to be initiated by divesting him of all metal articles. The Candidate removes his outer clothing until he stands in socks, his left shoe, trousers and shirt only. His shirt is unbuttoned to reveal his left breast, his right sleeve is rolled up to reveal the elbow, his left trouser leg is rolled up above the knee and a slipper is placed on his unshod foot. A hangman's noose is then placed around his neck, the end of the rope hanging down behind him. He is blindfolded.
He is then led by the Tyler to the door of the Lodge and the Tyler knocks.
The Inner Guard, moving with the prescribed step and making the First Degree sign, says, 'Brother Junior Warden, there is a report.' After several ritual responses, the Inner Guard opens the door and asks the Tyler, 'Whom have you there?'
'Mr John Smith, a poor Candidate in a state of darkness,' says the Tyler, 'who has been well and worthily recommended, regularly proposed and approved in open Lodge, and now comes of his own free will and accord, properly prepared, humbly soliciting to be admitted to the mysteries and privileges of Freemasonry.'
There follow several repetitious exchanges, the Inner
Guard places the point of a dagger to the Candidate's left breast. He is asked, 'Do you feel anything?' 'Yes.'
The Inner Guard raises the dagger in the air, and the still blindfolded Candidate is led by the right hand by the Junior Deacon to the kneeling-stool before the Worshipful Master, who then addresses the Candidate for the first time.
'Mr John Smith, as no person can be made a Mason unless he is free and of mature age, I demand of you, are you a free man and of the full age of twenty-one years?'
'Thus assured, I will thank you to kneel, while the blessing of Heaven is invoked on our proceedings.'
The Candidate kneels. The Brethren move in the prescribed manner, the Lodge Deacons crossing their wands above the Candidate's head, while the Worshipful Master or the Chaplain prays aloud, 'Vouchsafe Thine aid, Almighty Father and Supreme Governor of the Universe, to our present convention and grant that this Candidate for Freemasonry may so dedicate and devote his life to Thy service, as to become a true and faithful Brother among us. Endue him with a competency of Thy Divine Wisdom, so that, assisted by the secrets of our masonic art, he may be the better enabled to unfold the beauties of true Godliness, to the honour and glory of Thy Holy Name.'
The Immediate Past Master says or sings, 'So mote it be.'
'Mr Smith,' continues the Worshipful Master, 'in all cases of difficulty and danger, in whom do you put your trust?', and the Candidate replies, 'In God.'
'Right glad I am to find your faith so well founded. Relying on such sure support you may safely rise and follow your leader with a firm but humble confidence, for where the name of God is invoked we trust no danger can ensue.'
The Candidate rises to his feet with the help of the Deacons. The Worshipful Master and the Brethren sit. The Worshipful Master then gives a single knock with his gavel. 'The Brethren from the north, east, south and west will take notice that Mr John Smith is about to pass in view before them, to show that he is the Candidate properly prepared, and a fit and proper person to be made a Mason,' says the Master.
There then follows various ritual motions and the Candidate is led in a procession around the Lodge. Arriving at the place where the Junior Warden stands, the Junior Deacon takes the Candidate's right hand and taps the Junior Warden's right shoulder with it three times.
The Junior Warden asks, 'Whom have you there?'
'Mr John Smith,' replies the Junior Deacon, 'A poor Candidate in a state of darkness, who has been well and worthily recommended, regularly proposed and approved in open Lodge, and now comes of his own free will and accord, properly prepared, humbly soliciting to be admitted to the mysteries and privileges of Freemasonry.'
'How does he hope to obtain those privileges?'
'By the help of God, being free and of good report.'
The Junior Warden then takes the Candidate's right hand, and says to him, 'Enter, free and of good report,' and he is led to the Senior Warden, before whom a similar exchange takes place. The Senior Warden moves to the Worshipful Master. 'Worshipful Master,' he says, making the appropriate sign, 'I present to you Mr John Smith, a Candidate properly prepared to be made a Mason.'
'Brother Senior Warden,' replies the Worshipful Master, 'your presentation shall be attended to, for which purpose I shall address a few questions to the Candidate, which I trust he will answer with candour.' He turns to the Candidate. 'Do you seriously declare on your honour that, unbiased by the improper solicitation of friends against your own inclination, and uninfluenced by mercenary or other unworthy motive, you freely and voluntarily offer yourself a Candidate for the mysteries and privileges of Freemasonry?' 'I do.'
'Do you likewise pledge yourself that you are prompted to solicit those privileges by a favourable opinion preconceived of the Institution, a genuine desire of knowledge, and a sincere wish to render yourself more extensively serviceable to your fellow creatures?'
'Do you further seriously declare on your honour that, avoiding fear on the one hand and rashness on the other, you will steadily persevere through the ceremony of your initiation, and if once admitted you will afterwards act and abide by the ancient usages and established customs of the order?'
'Brother Senior Warden, you will direct the Junior Deacon to instruct the Candidate to advance to the pedestal in due form.'
'Brother Junior Deacon, it is the Worshipful Master's command that you instruct the Candidate to advance to the pedestal in due form.'
The Junior Deacon complies, leading the Candidate to the pedestal and instructing him to stand with his heels together and his feet at right angles, the left foot facing east and the right foot south. He continues: 'Take a short pace with your left foot, bringing the heels together in the form of a square. Take another, a little longer, heel to heel as before. Another still longer, heels together as before.'
The Candidate is now standing before the pedestal, with the Junior Deacon to his right and the Senior Deacon to his left.
'It is my duty to inform you,' says the Worshipful Master, 'that Masonry is free, and requires a perfect freedom of inclination in every Candidate for its mysteries. It is founded on the purest principles of piety and virtue. It possesses great and invaluable privileges. And in order to secure those privileges to worthy men, and we trust to worthy men alone, vows of fidelity are required. But let me assure you that in those vows there is nothing incompatible with your civil, moral or religious duties. Are you therefore willing to take a Solemn Obligation, founded on the principles I have stated, to keep inviolate the secrets and mysteries of the order?'
'Then you will kneel on your left knee, your right foot formed in a square, give me your right hand which I place on the Volume of the Sacred Law, while your left will be employed in supporting these compasses, one point presented to your naked left breast.'
This done, the Candidate is then made to repeat the 'Obligation' after the Worshipful Master, 'I, John Smith, in the presence of the Great Architect of the Universe, and of this worthy, worshipful, and warranted Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons, regularly assembled and properly dedicated, of my own free will and accord, do hereby (WM touches Candidate's right hand with his left hand) and hereon (WM touches the Bible with his left hand) sincerely and solemnly promise and swear, that I will always hele, conceal and never reveal any part or parts, point or points of the secrets or mysteries of or belonging to Free and Accepted Masons in Masonry, which may heretofore have been known by me, or shall now or at any future period be communicated to me, unless it be to a true and lawful Brother or Brothers, and not even to him or them, until after due trial, strict examination, or sure information from a well-known Brother, that he or they are worthy of that confidence, or in the body of a just, perfect, and regular Lodge of Ancient Freemasons. I further solemnly promise that I will not write those secrets, indite, carve, mark, engrave or otherwise them delineate, or cause or suffer it to be so done by others, if in my power to prevent it, on anything movable or immovable, under the canopy of Heaven, whereby or whereon any letter, character or figure, or the least trace of a letter, character or figure, may become legible, or intelligible to myself or anyone in the world, so that our secret arts and hidden mysteries may improperly become known through my unworthiness. These several points I solemnly swear to observe, without evasion, equivocation, or mental reservation of any kind, under no less a penalty, on the violation of any of them, than that of having my throat cut across, my tongue torn out by the root, and buried in the sand of the sea at low water mark, or a cable's length from the shore, where the tide regularly ebbs and flows twice in twenty-four hours, or the more effective punishment of being branded as a wilfully perjured individual, void of all moral worth, and totally unfit to be received into this worshipful Lodge, or any other warranted Lodge or society of men, who prize honour and virtue above the external advantages of rank and fortune. So help me, God, and keep me steadfast in this my Great and Solemn Obligation of an Entered Apprentice Freemason.