Archive for the ‘Freemason Initiation’ Category

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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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My Master Mason Degree Ceremony

May 26, 2007

Master Mason ApronI made it!  Six months after being Initiated as an Entered Apprentice I was raised to the sublime Degree of a Master Mason.

It was a very memorable experience and I enjoyed this Degree Ceremony the most of the three.  When I was initiated as an Entered Apprentice, everything was just too surreal and strange for me to really enjoy the experience.  I really had no idea of what I was getting myself into at that point.  My Fellowcraft Degree Ceremony was somewhat similar to my Initiation, and was memorable, but the Master Mason Degree was very interesting…

As I have said in earlier posts about my Masonic Degree Ceremonies, I am not about to reveal the juicy bits of the ceremony that would take away from the enjoyment of anyone who has not been through them.  Nor am I going to reveal any of the secrets of the Degree.  I’ll just relate my experience and impressions here.

I will have to admit that I have recently read several books and watched a few documentaries on Freemasonry.  I intentionally skipped sections that showed portions of the Degrees that I hadn’t gone through yet, but I still had accidentally gained some knowledge of some things that were going to happen in the Degree.  I’m glad to say that the limited amount of information that I knew beforehand didn’t really made a difference to my enjoyment of it. 

An analogy would be someone who says that they know what Olympic Athletes go through because they have watched the Olympics on T.V.  The real life experience is always much better, complete and rewarding.  Just like an Olympic Athlete, a new Freemason goes through much more than just the “Final” event.  There is all of the preparation, learning, practice, dedication as well as the friendships and social activities that happen along the way.

Here is my account of my Raising.

I arrived at the Lodge about 40 minutes early and I was surprised to see that there were a lot of cars there already.  There were a number of guests there from other Lodges as well as some faces that I hadn’t seen in a while.  I went downstairs with a Brother to go over my material that I would have to “prove-up on” one last time.  I was sure that I knew it all, and it would only be my nerves that might mess me up.

When the Lodge opened, I was sitting in my regular seat beside the Senior Deacon.  He mentioned to me that once I was a Master Mason, I could choose to sit anywhere in the Lodge.  I think that I’m going to try the opposite side at the next meeting.

After about ten minutes, I was called to approach the Altar to start my examination.  Just like in the Fellowcraft Degree, I had to stand in a very upright and straight-legged position.  The questions that I had to answer took only a few minutes, and they were not a problem for me.  Having gone through the Fellowcraft Degree already, and knowing what to expect, helped out quite a bit.

I am used to speaking in public infront of groups and I am good at appearing calm, but when you are standing straight-legged and not moving at all, there is no place for any nervous energy to go.  I couldn’t walk around any or even give hand gestures as I answered the questions.  Right in the middle of the first question, my legs started shaking.  I tried to reason with myself that there was nothing to be nervous about since I knew everyone in the room, but I knew I would just have to wait it out.  I tried bending my knees a little bit and this helped.  By the end of the questions, my nervousness had almost faded away.

When I finished the questions, the Worship-full Master asked if anyone else wanted to hear anything else.  I hoped that the “billion to one” chance would happen and nobody would ask to hear my Fellowcraft Obligation, but I wasn’t in luck.  I made it through my Obligation with only one little hiccup, where I paused for a second or two, but I still nailed it. 

I was then asked to retire from the Lodge Room and get into the spiffy pajama outfit that I had worn for the previous two Degrees.  After I changed, I still ended up waiting about ten minutes before the next part of the Degree would start. 

The Brethren who were outside of the Lodge Room with me, tried to “helpfully psyche me out”, before we went back in.  If I could summarize all of the warnings that they had for me, they would include the words: handcuffs, full frontal nudity, goats, lube, being sore for a week etc.  The more positive and excited I seemed about these possibilities, the more outrageous their warnings seemed to be.  I’m not going to reveal any secrets, but I will let the uninitiated know that some of those words weren’t in the Degree.

When I was led into the Lodge Room again, many things had been changed and I knew that this was going to be very different from the other Degrees.  Some of the elements of the ceremony were the same, but the overall ambiance was more similar to the initiation ceremony in the movie “The Skulls” than the other two degrees.

I was awkwardly moved around the room by two Brethren who held my arms and brought me to various places in the room throughout the ceremony.  The awkwardness was mostly my fault, as most of the time I guessed wrong in the direction that I thought we were going to move.  I was brought before the Junior and Senior Wardens to prove my knowledge of the passgrips, passwords, grips and tokens of the previous degree.  I was well prepared and everything went well.

My Master Mason obligation seemed to be very long.  There were some lines that were similar in all of the obligations like “I’m gunna do this here stuff that I’m promisin’ to do”…. or something similar to that, but it was much more indepth than the previous obligations.  The pieces of it were fed to me in small bits, but I did struggle at times to be able to understand what I was saying.  I was more concerned at hearing all of the words correctly, so that I could repeat them back.  Some of the words I mumbled back a little bit, because I wasn’t sure if I had heard the word incorrectly or whether I simply had never heard the word before and it wasn’t in my vocabulary.

There were the parts where I was taught the “secrets” of the degree, but I was very confused.  The signs and grips were all very strange to me.  The passwords were all very odd as well.  They were not any common words or even English sounding words and were only whispered in my ear.  I managed to whisper them back, but it was more like a whisper/mumble of hopefully similar sounding syllables… I’ll have to get more clarification later.

I was not prepared for the following events in the Degree.  There were similar lectures and accounts of legends and history as in the previous degrees, but there was much more “drama”.  I had heard that this was the favorite Degree for the Degree Team to put on, because there was much more for everyone to do, and I now see why.  While the other degrees were more similar to lectures, this was more similar to a production, and I was one of the actors – totally unprepared, but part of it anyway.

Once the “production” was over, I was allowed to retire from the Lodge Room again and change back into my regular clothing.  We then took a break and went downstairs for pizza and refreshments.  The energy of everyone was very high at this point and it truly had been fun for the brethren who were putting on the degree so far.

The second part of the Degree was more similar to the other Degrees.  Before I was led back in, I had to give the Master Mason password.  I was a little overwhelmed with knowledge at this point and really didn’t have a clue as to which one to use.  Thank God the Tyler gave me a hint.

Once inside, there was the Master Mason tracing board, where I was instructed on the various symbols of the degree.  I was also given a lecture on the Working Tools of the Degree and some other short lectures from various Brethren.

The most memorable part of the Degree was when my Fellowcraft Apron was removed and my Master Mason Apron was put on.  It seemed very heavy and thick and also seemed quite large compared to what I had been wearing before. 

After the ceremony, we went back downstairs for more refreshments and to celebrate.

My Lodge follows the Canadian Rite and some of our guests were from Lodges that follow the York Rite.  We discussed the similarities and differences between the two Rites and it seems to me that they are very similar in content.  The difference is in how much is done in the “theatrics and production” of the degrees while delivering the content to the candidate.

The Master Mason Degree was definitely a good and memorable experience for me and will forever be remembered as one of my life’s major milestones.

This is my 24th post on Freemasonry and my experiences as a Freemason.  Here is the Table of Contents of my Masonic Journey.

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Final Rehearsal of a Fellowcraft

May 23, 2007

mm-rehearsal.jpg The other night I went through my final practice before my 3rd Degree Ceremony.  The Degree Team was holding their regular practice that night at the Lodge, and I was allowed to rehearse my part with them.

It never really occurred to me about how much work everyone else has to do to prepare for a degree, and it humbled me a little bit.  Ten of my Brethren were there to rehearse their parts for my Degree Ceremony.  Since I am going through this degree by myself, they actually are doing all of this for me.  I have no intention of not being 100% prepared to prove my proficiency in the previous degree, and I’m sure that they have no intention of not being equally ready to present an exceptional Degree.

I was only there for about half an hour, but it was a good experience for me.  I was able to go through all of the things that I have been memorizing and practicing in the “real place with the real people”.  For the next few days as I practice on my own, I will be able to visualize exactly where I will be standing and who will be asking me questions etc.

The one thing that I have realized in the last 6 months as I have been learning and memorizing, is that doing this work “for real” is always much harder than doing it in-front of a bathroom mirror.  I was sure that I had the Fellowcraft Obligation down perfectly, and I know that I can do it in my sleep – because I have been doing it in my sleep lately…  but when everyone is focusing on you, its easy to become self-conscious and stumble on simple things. 

The idea of being the sole focus of the entire Master Mason Degree reminds me of a few times in elementary school when I received awards in-front of the entire school body.  One of the earlier students to receive an award had a peculiar way of walking.  He just seemed to bounce higher on each step than the average person.  After noticing that, each time that I walked in-front of a crowd, I became self conscious of how I was walking so that I wouldn’t appear to look like that other kid.  My point is, everything – including walking – can seem harder in-front of a crowd, and that you are never as prepared as you think you are!

I know that in the future, when I am presenting portions of Degrees, I will look back at this post and think that the candidates have it easy.  It is true that the amount of work to prove your proficiency in the former degree is very small compared to the amount of work that the Degree Team does, but this blog is all about my current experiences.

I look forward to my next post being written by a Master Mason!

This is my 23rd 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 in the Making

April 21, 2007

WaitingMy Lodge has decided to have each of our Fellowcrafts go through the Master Mason degree individually.  My degree ceremony will be held in about 5 weeks time, and I will be the third of my group to go through. 

I am looking forward to the degree ceremony, even though I am a little more rushed than when I was preparing for the Fellowcraft degree.  There is also more pressure because there is nobody to back me up during my “proving-up” portion, but I’m looking forward to not having to share the degree with another candidate.  I’m sure that everyone prefers not to have to share their birthday party with anyone else as well…

At our last meeting, the first of our group went through his Master Mason Degree.  Myself and the other Fellowcrafts were able to stay in the Lodge while he went through his Fellowcraft Catechisms.  He was very nervous, but only paused slightly on two occasions during his entire examination.  I guess he has now set the bar at 100 percent for the rest of us.

After his proving-up, everyone below the level of a Master Mason had to retire and leave the Lodge room for the duration of the Master Mason degree.

I discovered that it turned out to be a very, very long degree.  We waited outside of the Lodge for about 2.5 hours in total while the degree took place.  Since I don’t know all of the details of the degree ceremony yet, I could only wonder what they were doing in there for so long.

Perhaps part of the ceremony was for everyone to leave out the back door of the lodge and go bowling for a few games in homage to the Flinstones’ Water Buffaloes Fraternity…

I guess I’ll know soon enough and I will be able to appreciate being the center of attention for so long.  With the amount of Work that the Degree Team must be presenting, I can only assume that the amount of preparation I need to do for the degree is very small in comparison.

The next meeting is another Master Mason degree, so I guess on the positive side of things, it will give the Fellowcrafts more time to practice our work for our own Master Mason degree ceremonies.  I think to satisfy my curiosity about the bowling, I’ll keep an eye on the parking lot of the Lodge though. 

This is my 21st post on Freemasonry and my experiences as a Freemason.  Here is the Table of Contents of my Masonic Journey.

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My 2nd Degree Fellowcraft Ceremony

March 25, 2007

FellowcraftI am now officially a Fellowcraft Freemason!  I no longer wear the plain white lambskin apron, but now my apron has two sky-blue rosettes at the bottom.  I was just “passed” to the degree of a Fellowcraft in the Canadian Rite. 

There will be some differences from my degree compared to others around the world, but my experiences should be fairly similar.  No matter the which Ritual is followed, I’m sure that it will be a memorable experience for the Masons who go through it.  I’ll relate the basic things that I went through here, without revealing the spicy details that might take away from the enjoyment of any future Freemason going through their 2nd degree.

Before a Mason can begin the Fellowcraft degree ceremony, they have to prove their proficiency in the Entered Apprentice degree.   

I went through the degree with another Brother.  We started off by both approaching the altar and then answered a series of questions alternatively that we had memorized.  After we finished this, the Worshipful Master asked if there was anything else anyone wanted to hear.  The Senior Warden announced that he would like to hear our Entered Apprentice Obligation.  We were instructed to say the Obligation in unison, except for the final part that dealt with the penalties which we were to say separately. 

We managed to go through the entire obligation without any hesitations or lapses in synchronization.  Even in practice we had never done it this perfectly.  We were told by the Worshipful Master that it sounded like one voice with a slight echo and that he had never seen a group do it so well.  Our four months of memorization and practice payed off!

I will admit that by the end of the Obligation, my legs were shaking a bit.  We were standing in a position with out feet touching together and our legs straight for at least 10 minutes by this point.  The nervous energy and fatigue from standing still with straight legs were starting to take its toll.  Even my fingers on my hand that I was holding over my heart were starting to cramp up.

We were then asked to retire from the Lodge Room.  Once outside, we were told to change back into our “special garments” that we had worn for our first Initiation ceremony.  One of our questions that we had memorized was to describe the mode of our preparation for our Entered Apprentice initiation.  We were told to simply do everything opposite of what we did for the 1st degree.  We were pretty giddy from nailing our proficency test, so we did discuss wearing the tops of our garments as our pants etc…

After we had both changed and were waiting outside of the Lodge to begin our Fellowcraft ceremony, it occured to me how different this was from the initiation ceremony.  Our two “guides” for the ceremony and the Tyler were outside with us, and we joked and talked as we waited to be admitted back into the lodge. 

I wasn’t nervous like the first degree, because I had a pretty good idea of what was going to happen, and I now knew all of the Brothers who were inside.  It was actually our guides who were double checking with each other about their parts who appeared nervous.  I only had one fairly small part still to do which dealt with the signs, grips, tokens and passwords from the previous degree.  From this point on, I just had to enjoy the ride.

The ceremony was actually somewhat similar to the Initiation ceremony, but I wasn’t blindfolded.  I was led around by my guide, and prompted of what to say and do through-out.  I still managed to stumble on a few occasions when I was guided in a direction that I wasn’t expecting, but everything seemed to go smoothly.

I used an analogy when I wrote about my Initiation that said that the amount of information was like a tidal wave; most of it would go right by you, but in the end you would still be quite wet.  This degree was no different.  There were many strange names of people and places and stories that I really didn’t have time to absorb, much less process.  I even learned how to walk in a very peculiar fashion…

When we took the Obligation of a Fellowcraft, we were at the altar in a similar but opposite position from the first degree.  It soon became a very uncomfortable position and our guides stood behind us correction our position each time that we tried to rest or either slouch out of our “square” position.  Anyone who goes through this degree can probably attest to the soreness of your left arm by the time the Obligation is done.

The Obligation itself seemed a little bit shorter that the first one, and I was relieved to hear that several sentences and parts of sentences were the same from the first degree Obligation.  This will make it a lot easier to memorize.

There was more “secret work” as well.  Now there was also a passgrip and password along with the updated grip or token and signs.  I’m still a little bit confused about them, but I have a lot to learn about everything in this degree. 

There were similar lectures as in the first degree dealing with the working tools, the charge, and all of the symbols and history of the Fellowcraft degree.  This was also the first time that I had been exposed to a Tracing Board, which is basically a large picture that shows all of the symbols of the degree.  The symbols were explained as I followed along on the Tracing Board.

My overall impression of the degree was quite positive.  With the Initiation ceremony, it was very surreal to me because everything was so new and unfamiliar.  This degree was much more relaxed because I was now comfortable in the Lodge itself and was eager to hear and learn new material.  Every Brother who presented a portion of the degree was a friend and mentor.

It was explained to me that this degree represents the adulthood of a man’s life.  At this point a Mason is encouraged to learn about the liberal arts and sciences and improve his character and society.  It appears that there is quite a bit to learn in this degree and I look forward to getting into the new material.

This is my 18th post on Freemasonry and my experiences as a Freemason.  Here is the Table of Contents of my Masonic Journey.

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The Final Days of an Entered Apprentice

March 22, 2007

Final DaysIn a few more days, I will be be a Fellow Craft Freemason.  The notice from my Lodge says that I will be passed to the degree of Fellow Craft, if found proficient in the work of the former degree.

There are two of us that will be going through the degree together.  We have been preparing for this Degree now for 4 months.  For the first two months we studied the catechisms by ourselves, and the last two months we have been meeting at the Lodge with our mentor and practicing everything that we will need to prove up on.

For the question and answer section, we will be alternating answers.  For our recital of our Entered Apprentice Obligation, we will be saying it in unison up until the point of the penalties.  Then we will each recite the penalty section by ourselves.  The final part that deals with the “secret work” will also be done in unison.  The “secret work” is basically the signs, grips, tokens and passwords.  There is a series of questions and answers that goes along with this section as well that we have memorized.

The last practice that we had at the Lodge took less than 15 minutes to get through all of our proficiency requirements.  An earlier post here gives more details of the requirements.  I do realize that many Lodges have slightly different requirements, but in reality they are all working towards the same outcomes.

We are both 100% ready with our memorization and 99% ready with our synchronization.  Hopefully we don’t get too nervous and forget things.

I have been looking forward to this for quite some time now and have been “chomping at the bit” to start learning some new material.  I’ll post my account of my Fellow Craft Degree Ceremony soon!

This is my 17th post on Freemasonry and my experiences as a Freemason.  Here is the Table of Contents of my Masonic Journey.

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