Archive for the ‘Fellow Craft’ Category

h1

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.

Advertisements
h1

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.

h1

Gettin’ Some Masonic Bling-Bling!

May 12, 2007

Bling-Bling  I have two weeks left before I will go through my Third-Degree ceremony and become a Master Mason.  I thought that I would commemorate that with a little Bling-Bling.

I’ve been taking a good look at the Brethren in my Lodge the last little while to see what sort of Bling-Bling I could spot.

Most had Masonic Rings, although nobody had the exact same ring.  I also noticed some Masonic cuff-links, a tie clip, a tie pin and even a few Masonic ties.

I was told that it wasn’t appropriate to wear a Masonic ring until I was a Master Mason.  From what I have read, this rule changes from district to district.  In fact, I found on the Internet “Entered Apprentice Rings” and “Fellowcraft Rings”. 

I am proud to be a Freemason and I am looking forward to showing my pride, but I want to be subtle.  I don’t want to get a 6 inch “square and compass” tattoo across my forehead, but I don’t want to get something that is so small and obscure that it would never be noticed.  I haven’t really decided at what level of noticability that I want to have.  I think I am leaning toward the “a fellow Mason would spot it, but not many others” level.

In my personal life, a few friends know that I am a Mason, but I have not shared this with any co-workers.  I am a fairly private person, and generally don’t mix my personal and professional life together.  I’m not saying that I’m not a friendly person, but I don’t feed the gossip with anything that I wouldn’t want every single person to know. 

You might think that I am a very outgoing person because of this particular blog, but in reality I am some-what anonymous on the Internet.  I realize that people can find out my location and the particular Lodge that I belong to by even reading through my posts, but I don’t put my actual name on anything that I do on the Internet.  (I’m a high school teacher, and I know that many students Google their teachers for a variety of reasons.)

To make a long story short, it was suggested to me that I go to a particular jewelry store where many Brothers had bought their own Masonic rings.  The first salesperson that I spoke to didn’t know too much about Masonic rings and could only show me where their small section of rings were.  None of them appealed to me.

As I waited for the Owner/Goldsmith to come out from the back to help me, I noticed that there was a poster at the till for the Shriner’s Circus.  Beside the till was a sign that explained why the store did not offer any discounts.  It basically stated that they refused to artificially inflate prices and then create a false “sale price”.  Their prices were honest and would be competitive with any other’s sale prices.  It also stated that you would never be required to pay more than a quote for custom work, and that if the final product was lighter that quoted, you would pay less.  These seemed like very Masonic principles.

When the Goldsmith came out, he was wearing a bright Shriner’s tie and wore a huge Masonic ring. He lived his Masonic principles “out-loud” in business and in his personal life.

I spent quite a while choosing a ring.  I was shown quite a few pictures of rings that could be ordered, but none of them seemed to be what I was looking for.  We ended up creating a custom ring that he would make for me.  I was shown quite a few wax castings of rings and possible gold “square and compasses” that could be attached, but I still wanted something a little more subtle. 

A basic signet ring with the Masonic symbol attached on top was a bit too much, yet a basic signet right with only an engraving would wear too quickly and was not enough.  So just like Goldilocks, we created one that was “just right.”  He would create a custom ring that would have a sunken symbol on the face of a signet ring. 

I asked how long it would take for the ring to be made and he told me that it would take at least three weeks.  He then asked me when “the big day” was and I told him that it was in two weeks.  He replied that becoming a Master Mason is a very big day and that my ring would be ready it time!  I can’t wait!

This is my 22nd post on Freemasonry and my experiences as a Freemason.  Here is the Table of Contents of my Masonic Journey.

h1

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.

h1

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.

h1

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.

h1

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.