Duly and Truly Prepared
R.W. Bro. H. C. Oxley
Q. Where were you first prepared to be a Mason?
A. In my heart.
Q. Where were you next prepared?
A. In a room adjacent to a regularly constituted lodge of Free and Accepted Masons.
Q. How were you prepared?
A. By being divested of all metals, neither naked nor clothed, barefoot nor shod, hood-winked, with a cable tow around my neck; in which condition I was conducted to a door of a Lodge by a friend whom I afterwards found to be a brother.
It is thus that Masonry throws back the curtain on the first scene of an absorbing drama entitled a "New Way of Life", and this evening I wish to discuss with you the meaning and import behind the words — Duly and Truly Prepared.
The view which we obtain in the opening scene is indeed a picture of mortality in its feeblest state — unarmed and penniless, blind and practically naked, and by degrees we are conducted as pious enquirers along a pathway designed to end in a glorious immortality.
The preparation of a candidate and the plight in which he is admitted to the Masonic stage is meant to typify the helpless, destitute, blind and ignorant condition of a newly born babe. But initiation means much more than this, by all the authorities it is agreed to be a symbolical representation of the process by which not only the child had been brought into existence and educated into a scholarly and refined man but that by which the race has been brought out of savagery and barbarism into civilization.
The state in which a man enters an entered apprentice lodge fittingly typifies the barbaric not to say savage state in which man originally moved when he knew not the use of metals and out of which he has been brought to his present condition, it is precisely this that has led to the application of the term barbarian to the uninitiated.
The preparation of the candidate is also symbolical of that equality of all men which is one of the fundamental doctrines of our society. He is stripped of every thing that would indicate any difference in fashion, station or wealth; all things in themselves evidences of artificial distinctions are obliterated. The onlooker could not tell whether the candidate who is duly and truly prepared is prince or pauper — a millionaire or a beggar. On the other hand, the candidate is not deprived of any of these adornments of heart, mind or character which mark the only real superiority of one man over another, and which have favourably recommended him as acceptable to the Craft.
The preparation of the candidate for initiation in Masonry is entirely symbolic. It varies in the different degrees and accordingly the symbolism is found to vary also. Not being arbitrary nor unmeaning but on the contrary, conventional and full of signification it cannot be abridged or added to in any of its denials without affecting its esoteric design. Haywood suggests "That in a symbolic sense the entered apprentice may be likened to a human embryo about to be born into a new world — he does not have power over himself and he does not know anything about the new life upon which he is entering, and therefore it is necessary that he follow his guides with implicit and unquestioning obedience, for not otherwise can he advance a step. From one end to another accordingly the great note struck is "Obedience" — it is impressed upon the heart of the initiate by every device of symbolism, by every device of ceremony."
Every initiated person whether prince, peer or peasant is bound at least once in his Masonic career to pass through this emblematical feature of his profession. He may not like it. He may object to it but has not option; he cannot avoid it. If he seriously intends to become a Mason he must endure it with patience as an indispensable condition of his tenure. Nor has anyone when the right has been completely conferred every found just reason to question its propriety. Such a proceeding is probably utterly impossible for the ceremony bears a truly beautiful analogy to the customs of all primitive peoples so that its origin may fairly be described as cradled in the depths of antiquity. It is interesting to note that great care was taken of the condition of every Israelite who entered the temple for divine worship. The Talmudic treatise, entitled Baracoth, which contains instructions as to the ritual worship among the Jews lays down the following rules for the guidance of all who visit the temple "No man shall go into the temple with his staff nor with his shoes on his feet nor with his outer garment, nor with money tied up in his purse." There are certain ceremonial usages in Freemasonry which thus furnish a striking coincidence with this old Jewish custom.
Being in Masonic ignorance, a seeker after light and a representative of the natural untaught man it is fitting that the candidate be made to walk in darkness by wearing a hoodwink which Mackey has described, "As a symbol of secrecy, silence, darkness in which the mysteries of our art should be preserved form the unhallowed gaze of the profane."
The use of the blindfold goes far back in the history of secret societies even to the ancient mysteries in which the candidate was usually made to enter the sanctuary with eyes covered.
Our own use of the hoodwink is found to be in harmony with these ancient usages. Its purpose is not to hide or conceal anything of value from the candidate; it has another significance in that it symbolizes the fact that the candidate is yet in darkness and he is expected to prepare his inmost mind for the reception of those revelations which are the true light of Freemasonry. Freemasonry every stands among men with lighted torch prepared to reveal the true meaning of brotherhood lives in the bonds of a grater and eternal life.
Freemasonry in answer to its critics does not create anything too fine, good, mysterious or secret for this rough word; it merely emphasizes the fact that there are eternal verities. In other words, it provides a lamp for the feet of men enabling them to remove the hoodwink of jealousy, fear, hatred and unkindness and all the other myriad of obstructions to brotherhood in order that a man may seek and see the fulfilment of the realization. "Behold how good and pleasant a thing it is for brethren to dwell together in unity." The hoodwink that is bound over a man's eyes is not the real hoodwink but only the symbol thereof; the real hoodwink and it is that which Freemasonry undertakes to remove from a man's eyes, is all that anti-social and unhuman spirit out of which grow the things that "crib, cabin and confine" and thus result in the imperfect life.
The origin of the cable tow is shrouded in mystery. It appears probably that operative masons used it to keep control of the body of the entered apprentice. It is found that wherever man has introduced the noose, rope or cable tow it signifies obedience. Mackey defines a cable tow "as a rope or line for drawing or leading." The word itself is probably derived from the Dutch "cabel" meaning a great rope and the Saxon "tow" meaning to draw.
Masonic scholars are in disagreement as to the symbolic meaning properly attached to our use of the cable tow. Those who content that its device is merely to control the body are refuted by the very definite symbolism attaching to its use in the 2nd and 3rd degrees. To some it represents the emblem of the natural untaught man's bondage to ignorance and lust — which it is the mission of the Masonry to remove. By others it is regarded as merely a simple and natural tie which unites the fraternity while yet another group believe it is a mystic tie binding the initiate to God — to the Order — and to Righteousness. Buck, a distinguished Masonic writer, treats of the cable tow as follows. "He (the candidate) is restrained now (after the removal of the cable tow) by the voluntary obligations taken, all of which indicate the necessity of constant vigilance and self-control. In place of the former command — "Thou shalt not" comes the voluntary pledge "I will". The result is to replace outer restraint by inward restraint — without annulling or altering a single moral precept. The slave who formerly obeyed a master through fear, now voluntarily serves through love. The difference is between a bondman and a freeman and the result to the candidate can hardly be put in words when it is once realized.
It should not come as a surprise that a special preparation for initiation is required. The soldier's uniform allows for his greatest freedom or action — the bridegroom dresses in his best — the knight of old put on shining armor when going into battle. Likewise men tend to prepare in some way to the best of their ability for any new experience. The preparation of a candidate is one of the most delicate duties we have to perform and care should be taken in appointing the officer who should always bear in mind that "That which is not permittable among gentlemen should be impossible among Masons."
As Carl Claudy puts it "In the Entered Apprentice degree the Initiate is introduced at once to one of the most solemn, most inspiring and most beautiful ceremonies in all Freemasonry. He meets at the very outset a symbolism which should impress him very deeply for all time, that Freemasonry is not of the earth earthy but is concerned almost entirely with the Spirit."
Alas, all too few realize at the time the loveliness which they encounter. They are over anxious and concerned with what a "degree" may be rather than what it is. The candidate may be too nervous and overwrought as a result of idle tales of unthinking brethren who may seek to impress a would-be initiate with visions, with horseplay and terrorism, as a part of the degree. Nevertheless, the candidate should experience without understanding, know without comprehending, feel without sensing a moment which in after years will come back to him as a fragrant memory of beauty."
We should ever remember that many men undoubtedly desire to become members of the Craft without any intelligent appreciation of what they ask. To a great many of the profane Masonry is just another secret society — Good fellows mostly — I'd like to belong — Careless talk by coarse grained men of Masonic "goats" and initiation "tortures" have soiled and perverted the true ideal of Freemasonry in many minds. But says Claudy, "Even the unthinking are brought to a sudden pause when they meet the question, "Do you believe in God?" Men would hardly start thus to play the goats.
Duly and Truly Prepared — the phrase is adequately summarized by J. D. Buck in his essay "The New Age".
"Reflect a moment on the condition of the candidate on first entering the Lodge Room. He is not only in darkness going to he knows not where to meet he knows not what, and guided solely by the J.D., but he hears the marks of abject slavery. He is spared the shame of nakedness and the pride of apparel, and his feet are neither shod nor bare. He is poor and penniless, no external thing to help or recommend him. The old life with all its accessories has dropped from his as completely as though he were dead. He is to enter on a new life in a new world. His intrinsic character alone is to determine his progress and his future status. If he is worthy and well qualified — duly and truly prepared — for this and he understands and appreciates what follows in symbols, ceremonies and instruction the old life will be dead in him forever.
I submit that a definite responsibility and obligation rests on this Lodge and all lodges wheresoever they may be. A duty to see that even as the candidate is duly and truly prepared so also are we — so that the plan placed on the trestle-board may be interpreted with solemnity and imagination, to the end that the first impressions, on the mind and heart of him who is required to be duly and truly prepared, may open new vistas and unfold new beauties to the eager initiate who from henceforth with us shall journey as a brother to "that undiscovered country from whose bourne no traveller ever returns."
This article was prepared by R.W. Bro. H. C. Oxley, P.D.D.G.M., Grand Lodge of Nova Scotia and was donated to the Board of Masonic Education by R.W. Brother G. Vickers, P.G.S. of the Grand Lodge of Nova Scotia.