[Square & Compasses]

Letter of the month: July 2004

Message-ID: <D6A16F669B95C04BBC8F825D596E889303BE786C@drumml01pa01004.drum.army.mil>
From: "Luther, Ivan SPC G3" <Ivan.Luther@drum.army.mil>
To: masonry-ask@mit.edu
Subject: Masonry Question
Date: Thu, 15 Jul 2004 16:06:55 -0400

Dear Sir,

I am currently in the military and have researched masonry through and through. My brother, as well as well as brother-in-law are masons, so my question is two fold.

1.) I want to petition a lodge but with my continual travel and displacement I really have no home right now until I get out in November at which time I'll be moving to VA.

Should I wait until I get to VA before I seek a Lodge?

I have talked to my brothers and they suggest that I wait, problem is that I want to do it now!

THANK YOU!

By a Declaration, Liberty is born. With Courage she is nourished, and with unceasing Commitment she is guarded.


Dear Mr. Luther,

I have often advised people with questions like yours that they should go ahead and petition from where they are currently living.

But usually I hear from people whose plans will keep them in one location for a year or two, after which they know they will be moving to another more permanent location. In your case, I would probably recommend that you wait until you get back to Virginia.

Your letter doesn't say where you are currently located, and knowing that might help me advise you. But right now it seems to me that since you are moving around quite a bit, you would not be able to complete your degrees in any particular lodge, nor have the time to develop a relationship with that lodge.

One of the most important things you get out of Masonry at the start is the relationship: the new friends, guides, advisors, confidants, brothers you meet in the course of taking the three degrees. (In fact, that is one of the major reasons this web-site has taken such a strong stand against the one-day class movement.) If you contact a lodge and take the first degree there, and then move two or three times before you can take the second and third degrees, and then move again home to Virginia, you won't really know anyone when you arrive in Virginia and look for a lodge to affiliate into. And they won't really know you as they would if you had been their own candidate.

Besides that, here are a few other things to consider:

  • a) Around here, anyway, lodges don't meet in July and August, so anyone petitioning today to join a lodge in Massachusetts would not even be announced until September, nor voted on (at the earliest) in November -- so the earliest they could begin the degrees would be November anyway, and more likely it would take longer than that. So for a lot of candidates, waiting half a year isn't unusual. And certainly I hear from Masons in other countries who waited a year or longer to be accepted by a lodge and begin their work.
  • b) A suggestion: If you already know where (what town) you'll be living when you get to Virginia, you could go ahead and contact the secretary of one of the lodges in that town to introduce yourself and ask to begin the petition process. If they were okay with the process, you could go ahead and fill out the forms, and let the lodge get started on your paperwork. That way, on your return to VA, you could have a face-to-face meeting right away with a lodge investigating committee, and they could vote on you fairly soon after that.
  • c) I sympathize with your impatience to get going right away, but I can tell you that one of the very first lessons in Masonry is self-control, learning to limit our "passions and desires," to respect such boundaries. So by accepting your brothers' advice and being patient, you are, in fact, ALREADY practicing one of Masonry's first lessons, and making yourself better prepared to appreciate the first degree when you do receive it.

Finally, if you do decide to wait (and I hope that you will), maybe you'd like to find something to read on the subject. I'm going to make a peculiar suggestion: that you don't find books exactly on the topic of Freemasonry -- not yet. As a candidate, you'll have a more enjoyable experience, I think, if you approach that knowledge on its own time. Besides, there are a lot of very foolish and overwrought books on the subject, and you won't be in a position to evaluate them based on your own experience yet.

Meanwhile, depending on your interests,

  • there are history books about the era that Masonry emerged (1600s-1700s in England and Scotland). I'm currently reading and enjoying Freemasonry & The Birth of Modern Science by Robert Lomas. It doesn't deal much with the content or ritual of modern Masonry, but rather with the English and Scottish history in the middle 1600s, when Masonry took its current form, and about the creation of England's Royal Society, which, as the title suggests, is one of the founding events in the appearance of modern science.
  • there are books about mediaeval history (1100s-1400s) when the "operative" stone-masons built the magnificent cathedrals of Europe. One of my personal favorites on that subject is supposedly a kid's book, Cathedral : The Story of Its Construction by author and illustrator David Macaulay. The level of detail is amazing -- this is definitely not just for kids.
  • if you find yourself wanting to know more about the architecture of that age, the best book on the subject might still be by Henry Adams, Mont St. Michel and Chartres -- an education in itself on two distinct artistic and cultural styles: how the early dark, solid, solemn Romanesque style evolved into the light, soaring Gothic. It may sound kind of obscure and old-fashioned, but when you remember that these architectural marvels were built with the voluntary donated work of entire communities, and took not years, but decades or entire generations to complete. That kind of faith and dedication is hard to even imagine these days. What kind of people were they? How did the architects and craftsmen among them think and plan? These were the great monuments that inspired the speculative Freemasons a few centuries later.
  • a work of historical fiction about that era, having two generations of stone-masons as major characters is the very exciting Pillars of the Earth, by thriller author Ken Follett.
  • and a search on Amazon.com for "gothic architecture" yielded many interesting-looking books.

Well, I hope that helps guide your decision. You didn't say anything about why your brothers suggested that you wait, but you could certainly show them this letter and ask for their comments.

Be sure to let us know what you decide, and how things work out for you. If you have any other questions, please don't hesitate to write again.

Best wishes,


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