WHAT IS A DEGREE?
A degree is a stage or level of membership. It's also the ceremony by which a man attains that level of membership. There are three, called Entered Apprentice, Fellowcraft, and Master Mason. As you can see, the names are taken from the craft guilds. In the Middle Ages, when a person wanted to join a craft, such as the gold smiths or the carpenters or the stonemasons, he was first apprenticed. As an apprentice, he learned the tools and skills of the trade. When he had proved his skills, he became a "Fellow of the Craft" (today we would say "Journeyman"), and when he had exceptional ability, he was known as a Master of the Craft.
The degrees are plays in which the candidate participates. Each degree uses symbols to teach, just as plays did in the Middle Ages and as many theatrical productions do today. (We'll talk about symbols a little later.)
The Masonic degrees teach the great lessons of life -- the importance of honor and integrity, of being a person on whom others can rely, of being both trusting and trustworthy, of realizing that you have a spiritual nature as well as a physical or animal nature, of the importance of self-control, of knowing how to love and be loved, of knowing how to keep confidential what others tell you so that they can "open up" without fear.
Let's examine first each degree that is part of the Blue Lodge - also known as Symbolic Degrees.
Now that you have an understanding of what the basic degrees are, before we proceed further, you must understand that there are other bodies within Masonry that once you have reach the Sublime Degree of Master Mason you will be entitle to join.
But before going further and you read about what each Masonic body is about, please take a look at the Masonic Degrees Structure. This will provide you a general overview and will make it easy to understand on how the Masonic structure is set up.
As stated earlier, once achieving the "sublime degree" of Master Mason in the "Blue" Lodge, a Freemason arrives at a broad vista of opportunity for fellowship enhancement.
First, bodies of the York Rite and Scottish Rite offer ritual instruction for a continuous search for "Masonic Light". Advancement through these bodies not only invites participation in this Masonic network, but also promotes a more comprehensive understanding of its ritualistic system of ceremonies, doctrines, and symbols. Secondly, you have the Shriners, but one thing you must remember, each member of other Masonic bodies is a Mason first.
No Mason is required to advance beyond his Blue Lodge or participate actively in its ritual or business affairs, but those who do so find personal fulfillment in the rewards of public speaking, teaching, community work, and even music and the dramatic arts.
Now a brief explanation of the other Masonic bodies that you may be able to affiliate once you reach the Sublime degree of a Master Mason.
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