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H+H Masonic Journey – Volume 1 Complete

November 1, 2007

When I started this Blog ten months ago, I never thought that it would become so popular. Now with 30 posts, 32000 visitors, and almost 200 comments later, this Blog has become a resource for thousands.

The Masonic community is incredible. Most of the comments on this blog are very well thought out and reasoned. Many of the comments are well over 500 words in length, and some are much longer than even the original posts that they are commenting on. The comments have added greatly to the content here, and give much more information and insight from different viewpoints from around the world.

I have found that almost all of my visitors find my site through the use of Search Engines. My site is found from hundreds of people every day who are searching for the exact experiences that I have related here.

I want it to stay clean, simple and focused as the resource it has become.

I may post some in the future, but I will leave this body of work to be discovered by the Masonically Curious.

I cannot thank all of my readers enough for all of the support and input that made this experience in relating my Masonic Journey so rewarding.

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The Recruitment of New Freemasons

October 4, 2007

master-mason.jpg  A few nights ago, the Brother in the middle was Raised to the Sublime Degree of a Master Mason.  The other two of us were able to do a small part during his degree ceremony, and after he was Raised, we were able to “prove up” on our catechisms as Master Masons infront of him.

While this picture was being taken last week, I overhead some officers in my Lodge comment that this picture would show the future of Freemasonry – a younger future.  The picture is of my cohort group in my Lodge and our average age is just north of 30.  We went through the degrees together – some in a group and some individually. 

We were told at the end of the night from a visiting Grand Lodge Officer, that the numbers of Freemasons in Alberta are now on the increase again.  My Lodge initiated six new Entered Apprentices last year, and we have 4 new Petititions to join right now.  The average age of all ten would be in their mid 30′s.  For Freemasonry to continue to grow, younger members need to be attracted to the craft.

We were told at the end of the night, that since we have passed our proficiency as Master Masons, we are eligible to sponsor new candidates and were encouraged to do so.  If we knew anybody who we thought was of good moral character and would be a good fit within the Craft, we should not hesitate to bring up the topic of Freemasonry. 

The easiest way to attract younger members is to already have younger members, so we are fortuitously already along that path.  But how do you attract younger members without recruiting in the first place?  I think the problem with younger men being expected to find their own way to the front door of a Masonic Lodge is that most have never heard of Freemasonry.   

My understanding is that a man has to find his own way to Masonry, and ask to join himself. So do I tell him about the Craft, but never ask him if he would like to join?

This is my 29th post on Freemasonry and my experiences as a Freemason.  Here is the Table of Contents of my Masonic Journey.

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Should Masonic Lodges Only Allow Elite Members?

September 20, 2007

australia.jpgMy Lodge was fortunate enough to have Bro Kent Henderson from Australia give a presentation in our hall yesterday.  Bro Henderson is a Past Grand Master of Australia, and prolific Masonic author, editor and teacher.  He is currently on a speaking tour through several countries and my Lodge held a large banquet for this occasion.

His presentation was on “The First Degree Around the World”.  He spoke on the differences from the Emulation Workings in England, the Webb-Form rituals in the U.S., to various European Workings such as The French Rite and the German Schroeder Ritual. 

It was a fascinating presentation and I was quite amazed at all of the differences from location to location in English speaking Freemasonry.  I thought that it was confusing here in Alberta because Lodges follow either the Canadian Rite Ritual or the York Rite Ritual.  I was surprised to hear that there are over 50 recognized English speaking Rituals being followed today! 

Some of the Rituals can be quite different from ones here in North America.  The actual degree work can be varied with different symbolism, procedures and even different teachings at the degree levels.

The bottom line for English speaking Freemasonry, is that by the time a man becomes a Master Mason anywhere, he will have the same moral instruction and understandings.  It may be taught differently in a different order and with different symbolism, but it still gets the job done.  Also, even though a Master Mason might travel and visit another Lodge anywhere in the world, he will still be able to understand what is going on, even if the Ritual is different.

The most controversial aspect of his presentation were his views on how to “raise the bar” on the level of Freemasonry.  He spoke in detail about the European Ritual and payed the most attention to German Freemasonry.  Here are some points about Lodges that follow the European Ritual:

1.  Lodges take up to a year to decide if a candidate will be initiated. 
2.  50% of applicants are rejected after thorough investigation.
3.  At the start of the initiation ceremony, the Initiate fills out a questionnaire with some basic philosophic questions.  This is then taken in a read to the lodge, who then vote on whether he can continue.  If his answers are not “deep enough” he is rejected at this point.
4.  Initiation fees are around $1000 and yearly dues are around $1000.  The Candidate needs $2000 in hand to be initiated. (Canada, Australia and the United States have dues that are basically the same since World War 2)
5.  Some Lodges will not accept a man if he does not have a University Degree.  They feel that a man is not intelligent enough to understand Freemasonry’s teachings without a previous demonstration of intelligence.
6.  It is common for a Mason to take 5 years to become a Master Mason.
7.  All Masons are required to present several Masonic research papers at each level.
8.  Before a Mason can be considered for the next degree, the Lodge votes on it.  If he has not proved his knowledge of the current degree through his presented papers and lodge discussions, he will not be allowed to move on and will wait 6 months before he is voted on again.
9.  Festive Boards after meetings are very impressive, fine-dining experiences.  There would never be a hot dog in sight.
10.  If you miss 3 meetings in a row, you are suspended.  If you miss 5, you are expelled.
11.  Lodges meet every week for nine months of the year.

Despite all of this, Freemasonry is growing in Europe! He even spoke about one Lodge that did not have a member resign since 1939. 

He believes that if we make Freemasonry an Elite club that is very difficult to get into, it will increase the demand.  If Masons spend more money in Lodge dues and have spectacular events every week, then they will have more pride in their lodges as well. 

It does give one something to think about…

This is my 28th post on Freemasonry and my experiences as a Freemason.  Here is the Table of Contents of my Masonic Journey.

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Beyond the Master Mason Degree

September 9, 2007

lodge-entrance.jpg As a teacher, my life begins in the fall with a crazy amount of work and activity, and slows down during the summer.  It also seems to be true for many Freemason Lodges.

The building where our Lodge resides has two seperate rooms for Masonic meetings and a large banquet area.  There are four Masonic Lodges, one Masonic research Lodge, as well as the Eastern Star and Job’s Daughters that share the same facilities.  I noticed the other day that the booking calendar for the Lodge was packed.  Almost every calendar day had one or two events booked.  It’s great to see that all the groups are keen to get started up again and fresh from a summer break.

In the next couple of weeks, myself and another Brother will be “proving up” as Master Masons.  The date isn’t finalized yet, but we are not too worried as we have already had over 3 months to prepare.

We met the other day to review our material with our Mentor/Teacher who has been with us since our first degree.  He has been a Mason for more than 50 years and has also been involved with the Scottish Rite for almost as long.

The conversation changed to our options regarding the appendant or concordant Masonic bodies, now that we are Master Masons.  The 3 basic choices here in Alberta are The Royal Arch, The Scottish Rite and the Shriners.

I believe The Royal Arch is the same as The York rite in the United States.  It offers four more degrees to take.  It is a little confusing here in Canada because our Blue/Craft Lodges, which offer the first three degrees, have two distinct flavors themselves.  I belong to a Lodge that follows the “Canadian Rite” ritual, but there is also the “Ancient York Rite” ritual that many Lodges follow.  Because information is so freely available on the internet, most new candidates who do Masonic research on the internet come into the Lodge very confused regarding the difference between the “Ancient York Rite” at the Blue/Craft Lodge Level, and the “York Rite” appendant body in America.

The Scottish Rite offers up the the 32nd degree and there is a 33rd degree that can be given to someone for a lifetime of exceptional service.  Our Mentor/Teacher is a 33rd degree.  We were both invited to what sounded like an “open house” in October for potential new recruits. There we will be able to watch portions of several of their degrees.

The Shriners, as I understand it, are more of a charitible and social group.  It does sound very interesting.  In Canada in the past, you had to be a 32nd degree Mason before you could become a member of the Shrine.  As membership in the Shriners started to decrease, that rule was changed so that a candidate could be admitted after attaining the 32nd Scottish Rite degree or the 4th Royal Arch degree.  This caused membership in the Scottish Rite to fall, because Masons who wanted to join the Shriners, now joined the Royal Arch because it was quicker to go through their four degrees.  Eventually, that rule was relaxed and now any 3rd degree Master Mason can join the Shriners.

At this point in my Masonic Journey, I am not very comfortable at all with the procedures and rituals of the Craft Lodge.  I feel that I have memorized a lot of material, but I am still just trying to go through the motions without making mistakes and have not had time to become comfortable with anything yet.  Myself and my Master Mason partner will most likely check out the Scottish Rite because the opportunity was offered to us, but I don’t think that I am going to jump into anything new quite yet. 

There are very few members of my Lodge that actually belong to an appendant Masonic group, so on one hand, I will not get bombarded by brethren trying to recruit me, but on the other hand, I will not be able to hear about all of my choices.  And of course, I have no idea where or even whether I should move…

This is my 27th post on Freemasonry and my experiences as a Freemason.  Here is the Table of Contents of my Masonic Journey.

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“Going Dark in the Summer”

July 17, 2007

Summer timeI just wanted to pass on a quick note to the readers of my blog.  All of the Lodges in my area “go dark” in the summer months, so there isn’t too much going on right now in my Masonic journey. 

I don’t want to write posts for the sake of “just writing something”, because I don’t want to add too much clutter to the blog.  I want the blog to continue to be a fairly coherent story of my Masonic experiences. 

I have found that most of my visitors find my blog through search engines, and judging by their search terms, they are people who are just starting to discover what Freemasonry is all about.  I started writing about 7 months ago, and I have now passed 20,000 hits, so it is very rewarding to be providing this resource to so many people.  I expected to have maybe 5 or 6 people per day stumble on to this blog, so I’m actually quite surprised by the interest.

When I was first looking into Freemasonry on the Internet, I was looking for personal experiences of what Masonry was really like and what to expect.  I couldn’t find that information out there, so I started this blog. 

Right now I am still working on my Master Mason’s catechism and will be “proving up” in September.  I’ll tell you all about it then…

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Master Mason Requirements

June 13, 2007

mm-grad.jpg  I have now been a Freemason for 7 months and a Master Mason for 2 weeks.  Even though I have just been Raised to the highest level of “Blue Lodge” Masonry, I feel that I am still very much a beginner. 

In a couple of months time, I will need to “prove-up” my proficiency as a Master Mason.  The material that I need to learn and memorize is fairly similar to the work that I needed to do for the previous degrees of an Entered Apprentice and a Fellow Craft.  Keep in mind that my lodge follows the Canadian Rite, so my requirements may be different from other Lodges in different Provinces, States or Countries.

The Obligation of a Master Mason that I need to memorize is huge!  It is right around 490 words long.  The Entered Apprentice Obligation was about 350 words and the Fellow Craft Obligation was only about 250. 

The first paragraph of the Obligation is similar in all three degrees and this portion of the Master Mason Obligation was fairly easy for me to learn.  A few months ago, I was listening to a Provincial Cabinet Minister being sworn in here in Alberta.  It was surprised to hear that a few sentences and phrases were the same as in my Obligation. 

It was neat to hear the history.  Canada was originally a British Colony so our governmental institutions are very similar today.  Freemasonry has a long history in the British Isles and borrowed much of the syntax of their governments oaths into their Obligations.  Politics is not discussed in Lodges, but that doesn’t mean there are no Politicians who are Masons. 

The rest of the Obligation is quite difficult.  The concepts are fairly simple; that of maitaining Masonic standards and looking out for your Brethren.  The wording is much more complicated and convoluted, with a few more historical words thrown in that are no longer in current usage in this century or possibly even the last. 

I am having quite a bit of trouble memorizing some of the sentences because I’m finding that I can’t memorize the sentences as a whole.  I have to repeat and repeat and repeat short groups of words to get it in my head.  My favorite portion of a sentence is “pleading thereto no excuse save”. 

Like the former degrees, I have a series of questions and answers that I need to memorize.  There are only 11 questions, but some of the answers are quite long.  If I just memorize the answers, it is just over 300 words of text to memorize. 

There were many signs, grips and tokens shown to me in my Master Mason Degree, but I don’t have to prove-up on them.  That makes things a little easier this time around.

It will probably take me another month or so to finish learning the Master Mason Obligation, and then I will start learning the questions and answers.  I have almost another three months to prepare so I plan to learn a new sentence every 3 or 4 days.  It should be a breeze!

This is my 26th post on Freemasonry and my experiences as a Freemason.  Here is the Table of Contents of my Masonic Journey.

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Master Mason to Senior Steward in One Week

June 2, 2007

Surprise One week after being raised to the Sublime Degree of a Master Mason, I found myself performing the duties of the Senior Steward during an Initiation Degree.  Mind you, I didn’t say that I performed them well or with any confidence, since I didn’t really have a clue what I was doing.

I arrived late at the Lodge only a minute or two before the Lodge was to open.  As I entered the Lodge, I was immediately accosted by our Master Of Ceremonies who informed me that our Senior Steward had not yet arrived, and that they needed me to to fill in for him until he did. 

At this moment, I realized just how little I actually knew about the rituals that go on inside a Lodge.  Of course I had some sort of idea what a Steward did, but I didn’t really know the details – and ritual work is all about the details. 

It turned out that I managed to get through everything, with quick little instructions from the Junior Warden and the Junior Steward right before I was supposed to do something.  I also managed not to hear the Worshipful Master every time he called the Senior Steward to do something, but thankfully a chorus of “that’s you!” always magically appeared from behind me.

Our Lodge Secretary is also the District Deputy Grand Master.  His term is just coming to a close so this was to be the last time that he was going to be in our Lodge in that capacity.  We did a ceremony for him which I could only describe as being a final salute to the work that he did over the last year.  I played a part in his final grand entrance into the Lodge and managed to stumble along with him to the Altar.  There were a few speeches and then the entire Lodge seemed to erupt in a bizarre pattern of clapping and stomping in perfect unison. 

I seemed to be the only person in the room who had never seen this before.  I was already feeling inadequate in my role as a Steward, but now I was also feeling like a Masonic Noob or Entered Apprentice again.  

The one thing that I truly understood, was that even though I am now a Master Mason, but I really don’t seem to know anything yet.  I went through the three degrees and have memorized my obligations and questions so far to “prove-up”, but I am still very, very green.  I asked a Brother later that night how long it took him to feel comfortable in the Lodge and he replied that it took about 3 years before he really understood what was going on. 

The Entered Apprentice Degree went over well and thankfully I only had a very small part.  I sweated all night waiting to be relieved from the “real” Senior Steward, but he never came. 

This is my 25th post on Freemasonry and my experiences as a Freemason.  Here is the Table of Contents of my Masonic Journey.

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