Hello I have what I’m afraid is a stupid question but I haven’t been able to answer it myself through reading of books or the internet so I’ll ask here. The only fraternal organization I ever belonged to was the BSA so I was wondering if in masonry like the Boy Scouts you start and the base rank Scout / mason first and work to the degrees through the completion of study and work or if you start out strait as a first degree entered apprentice ?
That is a good question. There are three degrees in Masonry. Regardless of what you may have read elsewhere, there are ONLY three. In the general sense, you are initiated and become and Entered Apprentice first. As an Entered Apprentice, you have work to do. This work is explained to you and you learn what it is that you need to learn. Outwardly, it is memorization of a few lines and most believe that this is the true measure of proficiency. Once you satisfactorily prove that you can regurgitate back what you memorized, you take your Fellow Craft degree. As fellow Craft you take what you learned as an Entered Apprentice and expand on it. You are given a new piece to memorize and go through the same process. After you memorize the Fellow Craft piece you take your third degree and are made a Master Mason.
The above is all what is outwardly regarded as progressing. However; if you do not diligently study and do the work that is alluded to by the degrees and the memorization in them, you do not truly progress. Freemasonry is not a race to be won, it is a journey meant to be enjoyed. Yes the progression through the degrees in some lodges may take only a few months, the true level of your progression is never truly complete. Those that believe they are done with the work, have more to do.