PS Review of Freemasonry

Make this site your Home Page Print this page Send Masonic E-card recommend PS Review of Freemasonry Masonic Book Reviews Alerts Masonic News Alerts RSS News Feed
Serving Freemasons first
Search PS Review of Freemasonry

Gary Kerkin
"...without neglecting the ordinary duties of your station endeavour to make a daily advancement in Masonic knowledge."


VW. Bro. Gary Kerkin is PM Lodge Piako No 160
PM Waikato Lodge of Research No 445
Past Grand Lecturer, Grand Lodge of New Zealand
Grand Lecturer (2009), Supreme Grand Royal Arch Chapter of New Zealand, Northern Division.

            What obligations are required of a Freemason? And where do you find them?

            Are they restricted to those which are embodied in the formal obligations which we take on one or other or both of our knees with a hand on the VSL?

            How many do you think there are?

Formal Obligation of the First Degree

            In a reasonably long and quite complex passage what is that we actually swear to? Actually there are only two things!

  •  Never to reveal the secrets which have been entrusted to us – but with a couple of exceptions:

    • Except to tried Brother (who, demonstrably, already knows them)

    • In a regular Lodge (where it will almost certainly be in ceremonial form and to someone who is receiving them)

  • Not to write the secrets in any form such that they may become known – either improperly or inadvertently.

Formal Obligation of the Second Degree

            The passage in the Second Degree is a little less complex, and certainly not so long, but still covers only four:

  • Never to reveal the secrets

    • Except, of course, to those entitled to them

  • To answer signs

  • To obey summons

  • To maintain the principles taught in the First Degree (which, of course, covers more than the formal Obligations).

Formal Obligation of the Third Degree

            The recitation of the Obligation of the Third Degree is pretty solid. The language is complex. Even so it still covers only five things:

  • To never reveal the secrets

    • Except to tried Brother

    • In a Master Masons' Lodge

  • To adhere to the principles of the Square and Compasses

  • To answer signs

  • To obey summons, but with exceptions:

    • Sickness

    • "Pressing emergencies"

  • To maintain and uphold the five points of fellowship as applied to another Brother:

    • Hand – friendship and support to him

    • Feet – unite in mutual defence and support with him

    • Posture of daily supplication – see to his needs, weaknesses and necessities

    • Breast – safeguard his secrets

      • Except for offences contrary to civil and religious law

    • Honour – preserve his honour and repel slanders on his name


            So, in summary, what is we get on our knees in front of, and swear on, the VSL to do:

  • To keep the Secrets and not write them or otherwise reveal them.

  • To answer signs given to us by Brothers

  • To obey summons sent to us

  • To maintain the principles we are taught

  • To uphold the five points of fellowship

            These constitute parts of the two types of responsibility we have to the Craft: collective and individual.

1. Collective Responsibility

            This is the responsibility we agree to when we are initiated into the Craft and are intended to ensure the well-being and survival of the organisation. There are four parts to it:

  1. To maintain and never reveal the secrets

  2. To answer signs

  3. To obey summons

  4. To maintain the principles of the Degrees

            These parts are precursors to the duties which are expanded and delineated in the final charges of each of the three degrees.

2. Individual Responsibility

            This is the responsibility we carry to give of our best endeavours to assist our Brethren, Lodges and the Craft in general in as much as we are able without detriment to ourselves and families. This is exemplified in the Obligation of the Third Degree when it refers to the five points of fellowship.

            Again, this is a precursor to other responsibilities which are mentioned in the three Degrees.

            So what other Obligations do we “sign” up to? And where are they? 

            They are, of course, embodied in the various charges of the three Degree ceremonies. 

            Let us look at the Obligations implied in the three Degree Ceremonies.

Charge in the North East

            This charge introduces us to the first Obligation which is not included in the formal Obligation, namely an Obligation to be Charitable.

Apron Charge

            In the charge delivered to the candidate after he has been invested with his badge (apron) he is told that he has an Obligation to do nothing which could disgrace that badge, and by implication, the Craft.

Charge after Investiture

            In this charge we are told we have an Obligation to ensure that the Harmony and Peace of the Lodge are not disturbed by personal enmity with another Brother, and we are taught what we must do if we cannot resolve the differences.

First Degree Working Tools

            The next Obligation we encounter is presented in the Working Tools: to develop and live a discipline of care and diligence (accuracy), a work ethic (labour) and perseverance in the face of difficulty.

Charter Charge

            We are next told that we are Obligated to ensure we understand the rules and regulations which govern our Lodges.

Charge after Initiation

            This Charge carries serious Obligations. We are told:

  • We must undertake a serious contemplation of the VSL to establish

o  Our duty to God

o  Our duty to a neighbour

o  Our duty to oneself  

  • We are informed of our Obligation to our civil duties

o  Not to subvert the peace and good order of society

o  To obey the laws of the State

o  To pay allegiance to the Sovereign of one’s birth place

  • We are exhorted to apply ourselves to the virtues

o  Prudence

o  Temperance

o  Fortitude

o  Justice

  • We are told we have an Obligation to apply the principles of

o   Secrecy

o   Obedience

o  Fidelity

  • And we have an Obligation to educate ourselves (to make a daily advancement in Masonic knowledge)

Charge after Investiture in the Second Degree

            We are told we have an Obligation to extend our studies in the Liberal Arts and Sciences. This is reinforced in the Charge in the South East.

Second Degree Working Tools

            The Working Tools of each Degree carry tremendous significance, but it is in this Charge that we are introduced to some very serious Obligations:

  • We are to recognise the importance of equality and justice, even though some distinctions may be necessary from time-to-time .

  • We must not malign religion

  • We must avoid the sins of :

o   Avarice

o   Injustice

o   Malice

o   Revenge

o   Envy

o   Contempt  


Charge after Passing


            This charge embodies many of the principles outlined by Anderson’s Constitutions and tells us that we have Obligations to:

o      Conform to the principles of the Order

o      Practice every virtue

o      Be of good behaviour

o      Preserve the ancient usages and customs

o      Support and maintain the laws and regulations of the Craft

o      Not aggravate and palliate offences of Brethren:

  •    Judge with candour

  •    Admonish with friendship

  •    Reprehend with mercy

o      Honour and obey all regular Signs and Summonses

o      Encourage industry and reward merit

o      Supply wants and relieve necessities

o      Do not wrong, or allow to be wronged, any Brother

o      Appraise a Brother of impending danger

o      View a Brother’s interests as inseparable from one’s own

Charge After Investiture in the Third Degree

            Short and sweet, this charge tells us that we have an Obligation to afford instruction and assistance to Brothers of inferior rank.

Charge After Raising (Final Charge)

  •  As with the Charge After Passing, this charge carries very serious and significant Obligations. We are to:

  • Correct the errors and irregularities of Brethren

  • Guard Brethren against a breach of fidelity

  • Improve morals and correct manners in all men



o  To inferiors: obedience and submission

o  To equals: courtesy and affability

o  To superiors: kindness and condescension

  • Inculcate universal benevolence

  • Offer a good example of conduct

  • Preserve sacred and inviolate the ancient Landmarks

  • Do not allow an infringement of rites or deviation of established usage and custom

  • Enforce the tenets of the Order by precept and example



            By my count, in all of this there are 23 distinct Obligations relating to:


1.      Secrets

2.      Signs

3.      Summons

4.      Principles (including secrecy, behaviour, fidelity and integrity and fellowship)

5.      Charity and benevolence

6.      Harmony and peace

7.      Care and diligence

8.      Work ethic

9.      Education (including the VSL, Masonic knowledge and the Liberal Arts and Sciences)

10.  Civil duties

11.  The Virtues

12.  Equality and Justice

13.  Religion

14.  Sin

15.  Behaviour

16.  Usages and Customs

17.  Laws and Regulations

18.  Offences of Brethren

19.  Honour

20.  Danger

21.  Instruction and assistance for inferiors

22.  Improvement of morals


Home Page | Alphabetical Index | What is New | Freemasons World News
Research Papers | Books online | Freemasons History | Symbolism & Rituals
Saggi in Italiano | Essais en Langue Française | Monografias em Português | Planchas Masonicas en Español

| Sitemap | Privacy Policy | How to Contribute a Paper |

RSS Feed News Feed | News Alerts Subscribe News by Email

visitor/s currently on the page.