Way of the Hermit

1st Degree: Entered Apprentice

November 21, 2021 Dr. David Brown & Gene Lawson Season 1 Episode 2
Way of the Hermit
1st Degree: Entered Apprentice
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

In this episode, we discuss the 1st Degree - "Entered Apprentice" from "Morals & Dogma: The Annotated Edition". Transcripts, Chapter Markers and Show Notes for all episodes are available from our website - WayOfTheHermit.com.

It is highly recommended that you read the chapter in order to fully follow our discussion.  "Morals and Dogma" is available from these sites: 

The Tracing Board for the degree is available here:


  1. Moral Lessons
    1. Masonry is not a substitute for religion (p. 77)
    2. The Masonic Decalogue (p. 89)
    3. The Four Cardinal Virtues - Temperance, Fortitude, Prudence, Justice (p. 92)
  2. Symbols of the Degree
    1. Gavel and Ruler
    2. The Point Within a Circle
    3. The Ladder of 7 Rungs - Jacob’s Ladder
  3. Symbols of the Lodge
    1. The Lodge is a Temple
    2. The Pillars Outside the Temple - Boaz & Jachin
    3. The Three Columns Supporting the Temple
    4. The Great Lights - Compass, Square & Holy Book
    5. The Lesser Lights - Sun, Moon & Master of the Lodge
    6. The Ornaments of the Lodge - Mosaic Pavement, Indented Tessel, Blazing Star
    7. The Jewels of the Lodge
      1. Movable (now called Immovable)
        1. Square
        2. Level
        3. Plumb
      2. Immovable (now called Movable)
        1. Rough Ashlar
        2. Smooth Ashlar
        3. Tracing Board 

Related Links:

Introduction (01:13)

Gene: So my friend, “The Entered Apprentice”.

David: Yes. Welcome everyone. We have got a lot on the agenda today as we begin our exploration of “Morals and Dogma” and talk about the first degree - the “Entered Apprentice”. Show notes, chapter markers and a transcript of this episode are available from our website “WayOfTheHermit.com”. Before we get started here I'd like to give a quick summary from the show notes of what was covered in this chapter and just a brief overview of all of the symbols. So, bear with me here for a second.

Gene: Ok.

David: The moral lessons taught in this degree were that Masonry is not a substitute for religion, the Masonic Decalogue and the four Cardinal Virtues. The symbols for the degree were given as the Gavel and Ruler, the Point within a Circle and the ladder of seven rungs which included a discussion of the seven Ancient Planets. The symbols of the Lodge were given as the Lodge itself is a Temple and you also are a Temple. The pillars outside the Temple, Boaz and Jachin. The three columns supporting the Temple. The Great Lights of the Temple, the Compass, Square and Holy Book. The three Lesser Lights, the Sun, Moon and Master of the Lodge. The Ornaments of the Lodge as the Mosaic pavement,  Indented Tessel and Blazing Star. And the Jewels of the Lodge, the Movable - the Rough Ashlar, Smooth Ashlar and Tracing Board. And the Immovable - the Square, Level and Plumb.

David: This chapter covers over 20 symbols. To fully follow our discussion it's highly recommended that you read the chapter… but anyway, let's get started.

Moral Lessons (03:01)

David: I think a good place to start is Pike’s assertion that Masonry is not a substitute for religion. He calls it instead a system of morality and philosophy.

Gene: Correct. It specifically said that your religion is of no interest to us other than the fact that you do have a moral guide that you adhere to…

David: Yeah.

Gene: … not just yourself but something higher than yourself.

David: By expressing a belief in God?

Gene: Correct. To become a Mason you must submit that there is a higher power than yourself.

David: Right.

Gene: How that plays out in your own personal religious beliefs is your own business. It's a matter of humility. It’s hubris if one thinks that “I am the center of the universe and there is nothing greater than me. There is no God. I am God.” That is not a Mason… or very good human being if you ask me.

David: Pike also discusses his view of prayer as not a plea for God to change his will but as a force to be used. I took that to mean that it's important to make your hopes and desires clear even to yourself and also to try to align them with what you know is right.

Gene: It should be done in the spirit of Thy will be done through me.

David: Right. It's the alignment of your will with the highest will that you can imagine, which in the Masons they call that the Great Architect of the Universe.

Gene: it's a dance between the divine and yourself and you cannot be a wallflower. You must engage in the dance.

David: That's a great analogy.

Gene: That’s right. We all should be a whirling dervish and engage in the dance.

David: Using your dance analogy there, you might say that prayer is you stepping out onto the dance floor. It's you taking the initiative to engage with the divine in yourself, in others and in the world.

Gene: You have to be an active participant.

David: What are those verses in Matthew that say knock and it shall be opened unto you?

Gene: I think it's Matthew 7:7 through 11 - “Ask and it shall be given you. Seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened.”

David: Those verses seem to be about you taking the initiative to initiate contact with your higher self and with God. I think that's what Pike was meaning when he said that prayer was a force like other forces.

David: The second topic in this section on the morality lessons of this chapter, is what Pke calls the Masonic Decalogue. Pike calls these the “Ten Commandments of Masonry” but De Hoyas refutes that in the footnotes by saying that Masonry has never had a prescribed decalogue and one has never been distributed in the Lodges either; that Pike based that on the “Commandments of the Ancient Sages” from Rebold’s “History of Freemasonry in Europe”.

Gene: In typical Pike fashion, it's called a decalogue but it's actually about forty statements

David: That’s true, too. It seems to be based on the Ten Commandments, too.

Gene: Correct. I believe so.

David: The only thing I want to say about the Decalogue and also the “Four Cardinal Virtues” is that they appear to be more the products of applying that philosophy in your life as opposed to rules that need to be applied top down. Wouldn’t you say?

Gene: Correct.

Symbols of the Degree (07:03)

David: Alright. The next topic is the three symbols of the degree - the Gavel and Ruler, the Point within a Circle and the Metaphysical Ladder, which includes a discussion of the seven ancient planets. Let's start off with the symbol that Pike begins the chapter with, the Gavel and Ruler. Gene?

Gene: Force and measured application of force.

David: Correct. The Hammer is the big symbol of force and the ruler as the circumscription of that, or the measured use of it. So what I'd like to point out is there is a third term that's implied throughout this chapter that mediates between the Hammer and the Rule.

Gene. The intellect.

David: Exactly. Some intellect or consciousness has to make a judgment as to whether the hammer is being struck within the confines of the rule.

Gene: If you ain't smart you ain't using your hammer right and you’re gonna’ smash your finger.

David: That's one way to put it. The force symbolized by the hammer can be used to hurt or the help depending on how it's used. Pike makes several analogies in the section with the hammer, the rule and the mediating force. One of the big ones that he spends some time discussing is our system of government.

Gene: You get the feeling that our forefathers might have been Masons.

David: Which as we know many of them were. Pike relates the Hammer to the active force of the Executive Branch, the Ruler to the lawmaking legislative branch and the mediating force to the judicial branch.

Gene: Well, here comes the three again, the triangle.

David: Exactly. That rule of three or the “Thesis-Antithesis and Synthesis” idea is a central concept in Masonry.

Gene: It is. It is almost the center stone of the philosophy. I mean it is expounded throughout all the degrees.

David: Agreed. That is true. So the first symbols of the degree are the Hammer and the Ruler. The next is the Point within the Circle. The Point within the Circle is first of all the astrological symbol of the sun. Pike also refers to it as a symbol of the monad.

Gene: Also, to go Kabbalistic on you for a second - that's the story that to create the universe God had to make a space where he was not because God is everywhere. So to create something other than himself he had to withdraw and create a space for creation to start in.

David: So, the Point within the Circle there would be the constriction down to the point, like the “Big Bang”.

Gene: Correct. It represents the moment that God puts his finger in the middle of the circle and starts the universe. Bang!

David: It also serves as a good symbol for the individual, too.

Gene: Correct.

David: Because in a way we are our own monad cut off seemingly from everything, but a certain limit within which we can operate.

Gene: Well, we view ourselves a lot of times as the empty circle, when in reality in the very center is that spark of God that is there all along. It's our job to see it, discover it.

David: What's the term in Kabbalah for God's self-restriction of his light?

Gene: Tzimzung. “The world was without form and void (bohu and tohu)”.

David: This is a good example of the range and the depth of the interpretation of the symbols described in this chapter.

Gene: It's very nice. It is layered and there's lots of layers to unveil to yourself. It's like a layered cake, there are so many things going on that you don't see that only in retrospect, going back and reviewing…

David: That's true but one perspective that's helped me to interpret these symbols is to think that there are three primary layers or perspectives that you can view the symbol through. I mean when you look at a symbol. You know, you can look at it just like a hammer. Okay? And say that's force.

Gene: Correct

David: You can see it as the archetype that it is. Another layer is you could see how that could be applied in the external world as an external symbol. The hammer applied to politics.

Gene: Correct. Yes.

David: … or as the force behind the populus. So you can see it that way - as an external symbol or the esoteric interpretation is to see it as something inside yourself. The hidden meaning of it. Not the outside one but the interior one would be - what is the hammer as a symbol for a process in yourself?

Gene: OK. Yeah. Your own personal energy.

David: Yeah. So for yourself you could think of it as being your passion. That could be your hammer. It could be the desire to help a particular person or group. Whatever that force is behind it, that's the hammer that you're talking about. Ultimately, it would be whatever it is that drives you as a person - your hammer.

Gene: Your interests, your energy, your love and or passion for something.

David: Right. So we talked about the Point in the Circle a little while ago. Internally what would you see that as a symbol of? If you interpreted that symbol as an esoteric symbol, what would you say about it?

Gene: Internally, I view that as the moment of force coming into your consciousness or your subconsciousness. The beginning of the drive. That initial point of beginning.

David: And if that's the center point then the circle would represent the range of the thoughts, feelings or actions that that thought or initial cause resulted in.

The Metaphysical Ladder (13:53)

David: The last of the symbols of the degree is the Metaphysical Ladder which is patterned after Jacob's Ladder. Jacob's Ladder holds a pivotal place in the Bible. It comes from a dream by the Biblical patriarch Jacob, who dreamed of a ladder reaching up into heaven with the angels ascending and descending from the ladder. The site on which he had this dream eventually became the building site for King Solomon's Temple and the Masonic Lodge is based on the layout of that Temple. If you look at the Tracing Board for the First Degree in which is included as a link in the show notes, you'll see that the Metaphysical Ladder reaches from the altar at the center of the Lodge up into Heaven.

Gene: Which is the “sanctum sanctorum”, the place with a spark resides in each of us.

David: That altar that we’re supposed to build with smooth stones. De Hoyas threw a curve in this chapter by saying that the traditional interpretation of the Rough and Perfect Ashlars was incorrect. What did you make out of that discussion?

Gene: Those are complicated but what it means to me - the rough ashlar is the clay, the candidate when he first comes in. You're not perfect. You’re rough around the edges. You’ve got things to learn and things to square within yourself. The smooth ashlar is the goal. To reach for perfection. Not to become perfect, but to seek the perfect. The tracing board is the plan, the way. You lay out the plan to go from one state to the other.

David: I know that is the traditional interpretation that you are the rough stone, the Rough Ashlar and then by using the working tools like the Hammer and the Rule that you smooth out your rough edges and eventually become the Perfect Ashlar, or perfect stone. But, De Hoyos says that's not the correct interpretation that instead only perfect stones are used for the altar,  so…

Gene: But there again, how does one search in one’s nature for the perfect stone?

David: It made me think that you have to start by working on yourself with the tools that you have at hand but that you eventually come to realize that the perfection that you're looking for is within you but it's been clouded over and forgotten. It's become muddied by your life and your accumulated karmic debt, or whatever you want to call it.

Gene: That's very good. I like that.

David: I also took it to mean that at the beginning it feels like you're doing all the on yourself. That you're having to do it, but that later on you come to the realization that you're being pulled the whole time. That there already is that perfect stone that exists inside there. It's just it's not really based on your work necessarily, even though that gets it started.

Gene: You have to discover it for yourself that it is there. It also comes from the theory in Kabbalah that we all are sparks of God and that we just don't know it and we have to discover that God is within.

David: Yeah, but it begins with you actually being willing to put in work. That your commitment to the work but then eventually you get to a place where you see that it's not just you working alone. I think those things are done in faith and then later on that faith is given some substance.

Gene: You start with the tools that you have but as you travel farther down the path the tools will change to the point of things that you had to do at the beginning, you have evolved beyond.

David: Before we leave this discussion of Jacob's Ladder I'd like to read just a section here from Genesis. It’s 28:16 in Genesis. It says “... and Jacob awakened out of his sleep and he said, ‘Surely the Lord is in this place and I knew it not’. And he was afraid and said, ‘How dreadful is this place! This is none other than the House of God and this is the Gate of Heaven!’” So the ladder represents a “Stairway to Heaven”. The Ancient Mysteries taught that a soul descends at birth and ascends at death through seven gates which correspond with the seven ancient planets. The rungs on the Metaphysical Ladder correspond to these gates. All of that is very pregnant with meaning. Anyway, that’s all I had. Gene, do you have anything else to say about the Metaphysical Ladder?

Gene: To me, also there's an important part in there which is sometimes skipped over is - the angels ascending and descending.

David: What do you take that to mean?

Gene: The path works two ways. Again referring to the Kabbalah, the Tree of Life is the roadmap of how God created and how we as human beings at the bottom can work her way back up to the top to become one with God. So the angels descend and ascend. They bring down knowledge and we try to lift ourselves towards one with God.

Symbols of the Lodge (19:54)

David: So those are the symbols of the degree and that brings us up to the symbols of the Lodge and the first of these is the Lodge itself. The Lodge we are told is a representation of King Solomon's Temple. So it represents a Temple in which God can indwell. We're also told that we are a Temple. So we can take that to mean that all the symbols that we see in the Lodge are representative of something inside ourselves. I think that's one of the most mind-blowing things about this system is that all the symbols we’re going to look at here have an internal representation and represent something esoteric or hidden inside of us as well. The first of these symbols of the Lodge are the pillars that stand outside the Temple of Boaz and Jachin (or YChYN). There is a mystery about the placement of these pillars outside the Lodge. On page 80 of “Morals and Dogma” where Pike discusses the pillars, he says that on the right, which he calls the South, is the pillar of Jachin. The problem is that Solomon's Temple faces East so if you were outside the Temple looking into it you would be facing West and your right would be North. Gene, I know you've thought about this quite a bit why don't you start us off here.

Gene: It was a real awakening for myself. I don't remember what point in my journey I was but I was in the Lodge and I realized that it was not oriented the same as Solomon's Temple. It was like a mirror image. That just started my own amazement or befuddlement of “wait a minute… what's going on?”

David: Right. King Solomon's Temple faces East but in a Masonic Lodge the Worshipful Master sits in the East. I would also point out here that “Worshipful” just means “Respected”. But, the orientation is reversed. So, what do you think this means?

Gene: There are several levels to this. I think the simplest I could put forth at the moment would be “as above, so below”.  We are a reflection of the divine. In other words, King Solomon's Temple represents the divine, the Temple within, and we are just mere reflections of it. I don’t know, what do you think?

David: I'm just going to riff off of what you just said, in that isn't that we are a mere reflection I would say that it's just always all we have is a reflection. It's all conceptualized. “It's all in our head…”, as Lon Milo Duquette says, “...you just don't realize how big your head is.”

Gene: For me, it's a very high idea because as I said before, we're not trying to become gods but we're trying to work and make ourselves in God's image. It's a very humbling thing. Because of man’s ego, we always think that we are the center of the Universe but we are not. We are a reflection of the universe.

David: That's good.

Gene: This delves back into when you look at a representation of the Tree of Life, when you put yourself in it you turn around and back into it. So you're looking at a reflection.

David: That's interesting because Do Hoyas’ notes tell us that our next symbol of the three Columns supporting the Lodge is a foreshadowing of the three Pillars of the Tree of Life. The three Pillars supporting the Lodge are associated with Strength, Wisdom and Beauty in this degree while the three pillars of the Tree of Life or called Mercy, Severity and Equilibrium. The three Pillars are associated with the three primary officers of the Lodge which are the Junior and Senior Wardens and the Worshipful Master. So Gene, what did you think about in connection with the three Pillars?

Gene: The thing that really drove home was the power of the number three and how that equilateral triangle is the basis of Masonry.

David: What Gene is referring to there is the repeated use in this chapter and throughout Masonry of the number three, which is called the “Rule of Three”. Note that there are three Pillars, three main officers, three principal stages on the Metaphysical Ladder -  Faith, Hope and Charity, three Greater Lights, three Lesser Lights, three Ornaments, three Movable Jewels and three Immovable Jewels. Three is the pattern that runs through all these symbols of the Lodge that are presented in this degree.

Gene: You see it everywhere.

David: You do and the next place we’ll see it is in the Three Great Lights of the Lodge - the Square, Compass and Holy Book. This is also the primary symbol of Masonry with the Square symbolizing Earth and actions, the Compass representing heaven and conscience, and the “G” representing the Holy Book or our moral guide. We are told in this degree that there is a nuance indicated by the relationship of the Compass points and the Square. Gene, do you have the quote?

Gene: Here's a quote from the chapter - “You are reminded that although in this degree both points of the Compass are under the Square and you are now dealing with only the moral and political meanings of these symbols and not with their philosophical and spiritual meanings. Still the divine ever mingles with the human, where the earthly and spiritual mingles and there is something spiritual and in the commonest of all duties of life.”

David: I like that quote. We are actually physical, intellectual and spiritual beings all at once and everything we do partakes in all of those realms. All of our actions are intermingled. The next three symbols are the three Lesser Lights - the Sun, Moon and Master of the Lodge. The Sun is light-giver, the Moon as reflector and giver of form, and the Master of the Lodge, which Pike equates with Mercury as the dispenser of light to the Lodge.

Gene: Yes. “What do we seek? More light.”

David: And the theme of light continues in the symbolism of the three Ornaments of the Lodge - the Mosaic Pavement, Indented Tessel and Blazing Star. The Mosaic Pavement is said to represent the light and shadow or good and evil of the material world. The Indented Tessel is the border around the floor of the Lodge or of the tracing board and the Blazing Star is displayed above the Worshipful Master in the East as representative of the star that guided the Magi. Pike discusses the various representations of the Blazing Star that range from a five-pointed star, or a triangle with a “G” for “God”, or a “D” for “Dieu” in French,  or a Hebrew yod, or even an eye as a symbol for omniscience. So the Blazing Star is also the “Eye in the Triangle”, the “All Seeing Eye”, which is the, I guess you'd say the “Baba Yaga” of conspiracy theorists.

David: But that's a really interesting symbol. It is the symbol that appears at the top of the Metaphysical Ladder as well, so it represents some higher part of yourself that you’re trying to reach.

Gene: That is interesting how and why that symbol changed over time.

David: We've made it to the last symbols of the Lodge the Movable and Immovable Jewels. Pike pointed out the inconsistency in our current naming of these.

Gene: Right and it's not a deep mystery. It's just a slight misunderstanding because by calling them Immovable it means they're supposed to be in the Lodge at all times

David: The three Immovable Jewels are the Plumb, Level and Square. The Plumb is used to align things vertically and as a spiritual tool it helps us to walk upright by connection to a higher purpose. The Level is to align things horizontally and helps us understand our interactions with others and to help us to deal with people “on the level”. The Square can be used to create perpendicular lines and interact with both the vertical and horizontal and keep things “on the square.” The three Jewels are worn by the three primary officers of the Lodge - the Junior Warden, the Senior Warden and the Master of the Lodge. You can't initiate without those three officers, so they're Immovable. So that leaves us with the Movable Jewels which are the Rough Ashlar, the Smooth Ashlar or the Cubicle Stone and the Tracing board.

Gene: It would be more likely to call them “mutable”, the previous ones - “immutable”, things that never change. And the second part being the thing that is changed.

David: Right and we've already discussed the Rough and Smooth Ashlar at length, so the last topic for this episode is the Tracing Board, which has a very interesting history. The Tracing Board had the symbols of the degree and they put those on the floor and then eventually onto a carpet. Then, they started lifting the carpet up to keep it from being damaged and putting it on the wall but had to change it out every time. So they put it on a thing called a “trestle” so they could change those out. They would drape it across the trestle. And then eventually those just became boards that were put on an easel that you just point at instead of walking on.

Gene: Which if you do remember in our Lodge, they do have, I guess you'd call it, a tapestry. I remember it in Fellowcraft especially.

Esoteric Interpretation of Symbols (30:28)

David: I remember that. I think the most exciting realization for me from this chapter was to see the Tracing Board not just as a Memory Palace device for remembering the symbols of the degree but as actually a working diagram of how your mind works. I mean if you look at the Tracing Board as really a symbol of your psyche. It's not really just symbols about what's in the degree, it's the symbol for how your mind works when you're an Entered Apprentice. You know you have the Rough and the Smooth Ashlars in there? Those are concepts in your head that you're holding on to. You see yourself as both of those - as what you are and what you could be. Right?

Gene: Correct. Yeah.

Gene: So what Hammer are you applying to that to get you from the concept that you're not perfect to a more perfect self? What's the Hammer for you?

Gene: The application of will.

David: Good.

Gene: The harnessing of your essence, your life force, your push to get up and have a cup of coffee and go on with your life.

David: So you're applying your will to certain concepts. Right? I mean you’ve got some force there but you’ve got to put it into some kind of form. 

Gene: Hopefully using your intellect to apply that force correctly.

David: So that intellect would be the rule. The Hammer and the Rule. I'm trying to make the point esoterically, what they actually would mean. You have this concept of yourself as imperfect and a concept in your head of what perfect means, which changes all the time. 

Gene: Correct. Yeah.

David: But you're applying some kind of force to try to make from the one to the other. Right? I mean I think we're all doing that.

Gene: Right. That's the point to become a better man. 

David: So you have to figure out what the Hammer and the Rule are to you. As opposed to just thinking about it as just these symbols out on a page. I'm saying if you want to turn them into something alive inside yourself. 

Gene: Yeah.

David: You really have to be thinking in those terms. Like how am I going to turn myself from this into this? What things do I need to do in my life? What things do I need to cut out of my life? You know?

Gene: Yeah. Specifically using your intellect to direct your force.

David: And you can ask that same question about each of the symbols of Masonry. What do they symbolize esoterically and as mythic ongoing processes inside you? For example, what is your Blazing Star? What is the Ladder to Heaven? How do you climb it?

Gene: One might say that you're trying to understand the language of God.

David: Drop mic.

Gene: Drop the mic. Walk away.

David: And that seems like a great place to stop for this episode. I'll have to say  I really enjoyed this chapter.

Gene: I did, too. So next time we're going to delve into the Fellowcraft Degree.

David: So, I'm David.

Gene: And I'm Gene. 

David: Join us next time as we continue our exploration of “Morals and Dogma: The Annotated Edition”.

Gene: As we walk the Way of the Hermit 

Moral Lessons
Symbols of the Degree
The Metaphysical Ladder
Symbols of the Lodge
Esoteric Interpretation of Symbols