Archive for the ‘Entered Apprentice’ 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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Fellowcraft Requirements

April 16, 2007

PageI was recently given the material that I need to memorize before I can become a Master Mason.  I will need to show proficiency in my current degree of a Fellowcraft Mason before I can proceed to the third degree of Master Mason.  My Lodge follows the Canadian Rite, so my exact requirements will vary slightly from other Freemason Lodges around the world.

My first impression of the new material was that it would be an absolute breeze compared to the requirements that I had to learn as an Entered Apprentice.  The material required to learn was shorter, and much of it was very similar to what I had already memorized.  (My post on the Requirements of an Entered Apprentice is here.)

Similar to the Entered Apprentice degree, I need to be able to answer a series of questions.  These need to be memorized exactly as they are written.  This time there are only 9 questions instead of 14, and the answers to most of them are shorter.  I believe that these questions are very similar to most lodges around the world.

The second thing that I need to memorize is the Fellowcraft Obligation.  This Obligation is actually much shorter than the first one that I memorized.  It is just over 250 words, compared to 350 words in the first one.  It is also partially in code again, with letters and symbols representing words, and the “penalty section” is blank.

I had a very hard time learning the Entered Apprentice Obligation.  I estimate that it probably took me over 40 hours of studying to have it memorized well.  I used every trick in the book to memorize it.  I actually broke it down into about 45 pieces and tried to learn only one or two pieces per day.  If I tried to learn bigger chunks at a time, I would just confuse myself. 

All of that hard work is now paying off.  Large portions of the Obligation are exactly the same or only slightly different from the Entered Apprentice Obligation.  In fact, there is only a little less than 100 words that are new.

Memorizing the Fellowcraft Obligation is really just learning where to substitute a few words and memorizing a few new sentences.  I am having a little trouble keeping the two Obligations separate in my head in certain sections, but it has not been a chore to learn the new one.  I managed to be able to recite it in about 2 hours of study, so it only took me about 5-10% of the time to learn this one. 

A Brother told me that once you memorize a few things, the process takes much less effort once you retrain your brain to do it.  I am finding this to be true while I have been working on the questions and answers. For all of the Entered Apprentices who are struggling with learning their catechism, it does get easier.

The last section that I need to learn is the portion that deals with the signs, grips, tokens, passwords etc.  There is about 30% more work here than in the previous degree, and this is the portion that we will be working on when we meet to practice. 

My Master Mason ceremony is scheduled for May 25, so that leaves me with 6 weeks to prepare.  Our 3rd degree ceremonies are all going to be individual, so that adds a little more pressure, but I am looking forward to it!

This is my 20th post on Freemasonry and my experiences as a Freemason.  Here is the Table of Contents of my Masonic Journey.

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900 Years of Freemasonry

April 7, 2007

Born in Blood A few people recommended that I read “Born in Blood, The Lost Secrets of Freemasonry”.  I realize that this book has probably been talked about and debated by Masons in the last 18 years since it was first published, but it was new to me and it was a very interesting read.

One of the first Masons that I met, mentioned that Freemasonry had been around for 900 hundred years.  I was confused at the time because I had read that the first Grand Lodge was created in 1717.  “Born in Blood” by John J. Robinson gives a compelling argument for the notion that modern Freemasonry evolved out of the historical Knights Templar and not out of the medieval stone mason guilds.  The author is not actually a Freemason, but a historian and based his argument on historical evidence and research.  His theory isn’t a simple unsupported supposition, but is a multifaceted approach that looks at everything from Masonry’s rituals, language, symbols to religious and cultural factors. 

On Friday October 13, 1307 King Philip of France unleashed a secret plan to arrest every Knight of the Temple at dawn.  (This is possibly the origin to “Friday the thirteenth” as an unlucky day.) He was in serious financial debt to the Knights Templar for previous Crusades and saw this as a way of clearing all of his debts.   Immediately, every Knight was tortured and mutilated until a “confession of hersey” or other blasphemys could be extracted. 

The Pope also agreed and wrote several Papal Bulls condemning the Knights and a few years later officially disbanded their order.  Now with Church and State both searching for any remaining Knights Templar to complete the extermination, any surviving Templars would have to go underground or flee France.

The Knights Templar who were outside of France actually had months of notice of their impending doom.  In England, they had over 3 months warning at had plenty of time to organize and hide.  The blood oaths taken in Freemasonry, the secret modes of recognition and even the fact that the Tyler stands outside of the lodge room with a drawn sword, seems to make more sense for a persecuted and hunted group of men on the run than a Stonemason’s Guild.

Coincidentally, yesterday I caught a documentary on the National Geographic channel on the History of the Knights Templar called “Knights Templar, Warriors of God”.  In this documentary, it also discusses the belief of many that the Knights Templar evolved into modern Freemasonry.  I found it interesting to see how Rossyln Chapel has so much Templar and Masonic symbolism throughout, yet it was build hundreds of years after the Templars and hundreds of years before Masonry came out in 1717.

I have no idea as to the acceptance or rejection of this theory by the Masonic community as a whole, and as a Fellowcraft I only have skimmed the surface in my Masonic knowledge, so I am in no position to speak for this theory’s validity.  I do find it very interesting and cool to be associated with group that potentially has a 900 year history though.  If anything, reading this book has sparked more of a desire to look more into the history of Freemasonry myself.

This is my 19th 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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The Expulsion of a Freemason

March 12, 2007

Expulsion At my last Lodge meeting, an informational letter was read from our Grand Lodge that dealt with the expulsion of a Brother.  He had been convicted of a crime and had admitted his guilt and as such, all rights and privilages he had enjoyed in his Lodge or in the fraternity in general were now revoked.

Our Secretary commented after reading the letter that this decision was appropriate in order to uphold the strict moral standards of the fraternity and to keep “characters” like him from embarrassing Freemasonry.

I looked up expulsion at www.masonicdictionary.com and here is part of the definition:

He can no longer demand the aid of his Brethren nor require from them the performance of any of the duties to which he was formerly entitled, nor visit any Lodge, nor unite in any of the public or private ceremonies of the Order. He is considered as being without the pale, and it would be criminal in any Brother, aware of his expulsion, to hold communication with him on Masonic subjects.”

Part of the qualifications that I had to satisfy to become a Freemason were that I was a “just and upright man, had sound judgement and strict morals.”  I didn’t have to prove that I was completely free of sin, but there were basic things like not having a criminal record and honoring any debts or financial obligations that I might have.

In my “real life”, I have several co-workers and acquaintances who I know would not be dependable or trustworthy in many situations.  Many of them are very self-centered, lack any concern for others or even have the capability to experience empathy.  Several of them work in the corporate environment and have no problem over-billing and under-performing.

It is comforting to know that my Brethren can be relied upon to be true and reliable friends if needed.  I am proud to be in an organization that screens people to make sure that they are “good” men and insistis upon it’s members maintaining those standards. 

I’ll admit that when I heard about this man being expelled from Freemasonry, it sent a little shiver down my spine because I realized how serious Masonry was about being an honorable and decent man. 

During the discussion during our Festive Board, one Brother stated that Freemasonry makes a good man a better man, it doesn’t try to turn bad men into good men.

This is my 16th post on Freemasonry and my experiences as a Freemason.  Here is the Table of Contents of my Masonic Journey.