Is there a distinction between Masonic oath and Masonic obligation?
The "oath" is the "So help me, God" at the end of any solemn promise made with hand upon the Volume of the Sacred Law. The "obligation" is the substance of the preceding promises. The "oath" is thus symbolical of a man's fear of God and the "obligation" signifies the promises and agreements made preceding the oath. (Source: One Hundred and One Questions About Freemasonry, The Masonic Service Association of North America, Silver Spring, MD, 1999)
What are the four cardinal virtues?
According to E. R. Johnson in "Masonry Defined," the four cardinal virtues taught in Freemasonry are: Fortitude, by which we are taught to resist temptation; Prudence, by which we are instructed to regulate our conduct by the dictates of reason; Temperance, by which we learn to govern our passions; and Justice, which constitutes the cement of civil society. (Source: Masonry Defined, by E.R. Johnson, Kissinger Publishing)
Why do brethren not pass between the altar and the East when lodge is at labor?
Brethren do not pass between the altar and the East in a Masonic lodge at labor, except in a degree, because the Master is supposed to have the Great Lights constantly in view. In theory, he draws inspiration from the altar to preside over the lodge and must not, therefore, be obstructed from seeing it at any time. The custom is rooted in a fundamental conception of the Craft that the altar is the center of Freemasonry, and that from it and from the Great Lights it bears, flow all that there is of Masonic inspiration, truth, and light. (Source: One Hundred and One Questions About Freemasonry, The Masonic Service Association of North America, Silver Spring, MD, 1999)
Why does the Worshipful Master wear a hat when lodge is at labor?
A contemporary relic of the ancient custom whereby a King remained covered under all circumstances, while his subjects were obliged to uncover in his presence. Apparently the custom, which began in English lodges, is not common there now; but in American lodges, the Master wears a hat (or in the case of Pennsylvania lodges, a black top hat) as a sign and symbol of his authority. (Source: One Hundred and One Questions About Freemasonry, The Masonic Service Association of North America, Silver Spring, MD, 1999)