Museum of Freemasonry - Masonic Library

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Why is the North-East the position of the Foundation-Stone and therefore of the Initiate?

The reason why the North-East Corner is traditionally stated to be the site of the first or foundation stone is that in Operative Masonry the first stone of a building is placed in the North-East.

As a matter of fact this particular stone is not always placed in that corner, and yet, symbolically, the location of that stone in the building is the North-East corner ... Why ... Building operations require good light to properly lay the stones the ancients did not have the advantage of electric light. They must make the best use of the sunlight while it lasted. The stones in the corner had to be laid with great exactness, and since, in the civilized world of that day the sun rose in the north-east, that corner would be the natural place to begin. It was the only place where in the early morning the sun would shine on both the outer walls of the stone and permit accurate placing by sunlight.

This of course is in the Northern Hemisphere.

It will be noted that in all the traditions and legends about this corner it represents the source of the dawn, the place of beginning where the sun's rays first strike, and therefore it symbolizes the Entered .Apprentice beginning his Masonic life.

Front the fact that Masonically the North is considered the place of darkness and the East the source of light, the North-East Corner appropriately symbolizes the Candidate emerging from darkness to light; He is turning the corner from the darkness of the North to the dawning light of the East ... He has received some light and is in search of more.

The North as the place of Darkness, Masonically, represents the profane World, while the East as the source of Light represents the Lodge. The Corner-Stone in the North-East Corner has one side towards the North and the other towards the East. The Candidate in that Corner, therefore, represents one that has just emerged from the Darkness of the North but has not wholly left it.