Archive for the ‘Freemasons’ 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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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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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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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.