The Three Masonic Degrees
Masonic ritual is designed around the symbolic story of the building of a great, spiritual temple, as represented by the Temple of Solomon. The three Masonic degrees are designed to represent three stages of life: youth, manhood, and age.
The Entered Apprentice degree
The Entered Apprentice degree represents youth because it teaches the most basic lessons of belief in God, the necessity of charity to mankind, the importance of truth, and the value of keeping one’s word.
To obtain this degree, the Apprentice goes to each of the primary officers in the lodge, who each question and examine the new member. As in the earliest days of the craft guild, the Entered Apprentice must memorize a series of questions and answers. This requirement has several purposes:
Show dedication. The Entered Apprentice can demonstrate that he has made a proficient study of the lodge and its workings.
Prove affiliation. If the Entered Apprentice wants to visit another lodge where no one knows him, he can vouch for his own knowledge and prove he’s an Entered Apprentice by answering the questions in proper form.
Continue tradition. By learning these questions and answers, he becomes a link in the long chain of millions of men who have passed the ritual down through the centuries.
After the questioning, the Apprentice kneels at the altar, places his hand on the Bible or the Volume of Sacred Law, and takes the obligation (oath) of an Entered Apprentice.
The Fellow Craft degree
The second degree is the Fellow Craft, which represents manhood, the middle period of life. During this degree, the importance of education and work, and the awesome power of God, are taught to the Mason.
The obligation he takes as a Fellow Craft is longer than that of the Entered Apprentice and increases his duties to his brethren. In addition to secrecy, he promises to help his brothers, and to obey the rules and laws of the lodge.
Although the Entered Apprentice degree is known to Masons as initiation, the Fellow Craft is said to be passing. It is a passage through the adult stage of life, when we learn and experience new things every day.
The Master Mason degree
The Master Mason degree is the third and last degree ritual of the lodge. In the course of the degree, the new Master Mason is taught the importance of living a life true to the principles of morality and virtue.
The Master Mason degree represents age. The brother is encouraged to reflect on his deeds and make peace with his God because death is a strong theme during this degree. How a man lives and dies is the most important message the degrees of Masonry convey.