Ritualists seem divided in the use of the terms Clouded Canopy and Celestial Canopy in the Entered Apprentice Degree (for the former, see Canopy, Clouded, and Covering of the Lodge). It would seem that the unclouded grandeur of the heavens should not be without advocates. Sir John Lubbock gives the following description of the heavens filled with stars in connection with the latest discoveries: "Like the sand of the sea, the stars of heaven are used as a symbol of numbers. We now know that our earth is but a fraction of one part of, at least 75,000,000 worlds. But this is not all.
In addition to the luminous heavenly bodies, we cannot doubt there are countless others invisible to us from their great distance, smaller size, or feebler light; indeed, we know that there are many dark bodies which now emit no light, or comparatively little. Thus the floor of heaven is not only 'thick, inlaid with patinas of bright gold,' but studded also with extinct stars, once probably as brilliant as our own sun."
The clouded canopy, or starry-decked heaven, is a symbol of the Entered Apprentice Degree, and is of such important significance that Lenning calls it a "fundamental symbol of Freemasonry." In the lectures of the York Rite, the clouded canopy is described as the covering of the Lodge, teaching us, as Krause says, "that the primitive Lodge is confined within no shut up building, but that it is universal, and reaches to heaven, and especially teaching that in every clime under heaven Freemasonry has its seat." Gädieke says, "Every Freemason knows that by the clouded canopy we mean the heavens and that it teaches how widely extended is our sphere of usefulness. There is no portion of the inhabited world in which our labor cannot be carried forward, as there is no portion of the globe without its clouded canopy."
Hence, then, the German interpretation of the symbol is that it denotes the universality of Freemasonry, an interpretation that does not precisely accord with the English and American systems, in which the doctrine of universality is symbolized by the form and extent of the Lodge. The clouded canopy as the covering of the Lodge seems rather to teach the doctrine of aspiration for a higher sphere; it is thus defined in this work under the head of Covering of the Lodge, which see.