[Square & Compasses]

Isn't This Wonderful?

by G.L. Dryfoos

Fri May 9 16:17:10 EDT 2003: I just received a flyer from the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, asking me to recruit for an upcoming state-wide degree-o-rama of One Day Classes. Here are some excerpts:

Your Grand Lodge is counting on all Massachusetts Masons to contact their relatives, friends and neighbors who would be good Masons.

This is their opportunity to become a member of your Lodge in one day! This is your opportunity to have them join you in your lodge!

All this can become a reality on Saturday, November 1, 2003, in any one of five locations, where special degree teams will perform the work.[...]

For this class only, candidates will not be required to memorize any obligation or ritual.

In this busy world, this class of candidates is designed for for those men who feel they do not have the time for memory work or to attend multiple meetings over a period of three months. This is the time for them to join.

On Saturday, November 1, 2003, candidates will begin receiving the Entered Apprentice, First Degree at 8:00am in the morning and finish with the Master Masons [sic], Third Degree when the program closes, no later than 3:30pm in the afternoon. There is no other qualification to membership other than signing the by-laws of his Lodge. He is not required to attend Lodges of Instruction. [emphasis added]

Candidates who join Lodges though the traditional method are required to comply with memorization and to attend Lodge of Instruction meetings.

Isn't that Just Wonderful???

None of that pesky learning the ritual. Who needs to actually learn the lessons of Masonry, as long as you have that nifty little lapel pin, right, Brother? And who needs to memorize those long boring "obligations", which detail the promises a new Mason makes to himself and to his lodge, and to his brother Masons across the face of the globe? Who needs that stuff as long as the grand lodge will be getting those dues checks? Remember, these are "busy men" after all, men who are apparently too important to be held to all of the usual requirements.

And, really, this is just what Masonry needs, isn't it, to become a stronger more meaningful force in its members lives? And through them to bring its once-revolutionary ideals of brotherhood, and respect for freedom of thought and diversity of belief to a world that needs those ideals more desperately every day? Ideals? Lessons? Solemn individual initiations? Unnecessary relics, apparently, of an outdated idea that a Mason should understand what he's joined and what he's promised. If these "busy men" are too busy to learn their candidates' work, when are they going to find time for meetings and committee work? Who cares?

How long before the Grand Lodge is just throwing handfuls of square-and-compasses lapel pins from a Mardi Gras balcony or a Tournament of Roses float?

In some countries the application process is a serious thing, and if a Mason proves unworthy of his lodge's trust and respect, that member's original sponsor can be questioned or reprimanded: after all he vouched for the man in the first place. I hear regularly from new Masons in Europe and Latin-America who may wait a year or more between degrees. These eager apprentices are assigned to do research and write papers, then present them to their lodge, defend them and answer questions about them. Can you imagine any grand lodge in the US putting in that kind of requirement? And yet these dedicated Masons love the work, and respect their lodges for having such high standards for them. They hold their Masonic member in high regard because they have had to earn it. And their brother know that it actually means something to be a Mason, that one has shown some dedication to the Craft and some determination to pursue a difficult goal.

What difficulty or determination or perseverance does membership in a US lodge indicate? In fact, nowadays, what knowledge of Masonry at all does it signify?

The authority to make a Mason in a single day is called "making a Mason 'at sight'" and it is the ancient traditional extraordinary power of every Grand Master. Indeed it was formerly used only in extraordinary circumstances: perhaps to reward a great national hero or civic leader, or to complete the Masonic advancement of a terminally-ill applicant. For instance, in 1967, the Grand Master of Florida made Mason at Sight Wally Shirra Jr, one of the original Mercury 7 astronauts. Making a Mason at Sight is supposed to be an extremely rare thing, an honor. But it is precisely that "extraordinary" power that Grand Lodges use when they violate every other provision of their own constitutions by holding these One Day Classes.

I'm wondering if the other grand lodges around the world even KNOW what our American lodges are up to with these One Day Classes? Do they have any idea that the Masonic world is being flooded by these Mass-produced McMasons? Do the other grand lodges care? Should they care? Should they respond? Will they? I suppose we'll find out eventually.

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A Page About Freemasonry is http://web.mit.edu/dryfoo/Masonry/