All I Really Need to Know

Photo of Grand Commander Ronald A. Seale, 33°

September-October 2011

By Ronald A. Seale, Sovereign Grand Commander

As I write this message, the staff at the House of the Temple is in the midst of preparations for the 2011 Biennial Session (and 210th anniversary of our Supreme Council). I have just finished my allocution and have a little time to ponder upcoming events. In a few weeks the Supreme Council will elect new 33° Inspectors General Honorary and witness the conferral of that solemn and impressive degree. I can still remember my sense of pride and awe when I received the 33° in 1993.

In my decades as a Mason, I have been privileged to witness many (if not most) of the degrees that Masonry has to offer. I can still remember my feelings when I reviewed my accomplishments in the 31°, Inspector Inquisitor, and how my heart sank when I had to answer the piercing question of the 14°, Perfect Elu. I have had other profound moments of initiatory experience, but perhaps the most meaningful occurred early in my Masonic career—when I became an Entered Apprentice.

Some twenty-five years ago Rev. Robert L. Fulgham wrote a deceptively simple little book, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. His lessons were uncomplicated and yet profound. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Play fair.
  • Put things back where you found them.
  • Clean up your own mess.
  • Live a balanced life—learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.

If we each would remember and practice those lessons we learned in kindergarten, think what our lives and our world could be like, and these are only part of Rev. Fulgham’s knowledge from his first days in school.

And what would our fraternity be like if we returned to the basic lessons of an Entered Apprentice, those first instructions on which we were to build our future moral and Masonic edifices? Here are a few that have stuck in my mind since lo those many years ago when I first knocked on the door of a lodge:

  • No man should ever enter upon any great or important undertaking without first invoking the blessing of Deity.
  • An Entered Apprentice puts his trust in God.
  • It is the internal and not the external qualifications that should recommend a man to be a Mason.
  • Every Entered Apprentice has stood at least once as a just and upright man and received instructions on which to build his future moral and Masonic edifice.

And when each one of us stood in our lodges as just and upright men and Masons, it was in the northeast corner where we represented a spiritual cornerstone. Some of us had more rough and superfluous parts that needed breaking off than others, but if we absorbed any of those first lessons of Masonry, we then began a journey of self-improvement, fitting ourselves as living stones for that house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
Bro. Stephen Dafoe summed up my thoughts nicely with the title of his 2004 book: Everything I Needed to Know about Freemasonry I Learned as an Apprentice. I think he’s onto something! There is a certain powerful simplicity to the ceremonies of the Entered Apprentice Degree that has a deep effect on candidates. There is no pretense and no fancy paraphernalia. Just simple, heartfelt lessons as friends teach one of their number to join them as a brother.

At the 2007 Leadership Conferences, I gave each attendee a small pin in the shape of an Entered Apprentice’s apron on which was one simple phrase: Never Forget. If we each would remember and practice those lessons we learned in the First Degree, think what our lives and our fraternity could be like.

I’m very proud of my 33° ring, but the more I think about it, the more I think my 14° ring represents all I really need to know about the Scottish Rite. And I am very certain that all I need to know about Masonry I learned as an Apprentice.