The Process of Freemasonry:
"We should square corners, not cut them"
by "Bro. Paul Trusten" <email@example.com> -- this article
has been reprinted in the Summer 2004 issue of Freemasonry
"There are two cardinal sins, from which all the others spring:
impatience and laziness." ---Franz Kafka
My father was raised to the Sublime Degree of Master Mason in 1950,
two years before I was born. He also became a member of the Scottish
Rite and the Shrine, and cherished his memberships. "When you turn 21,
I hope you'll become a Mason", said he to me one day when I was about
nine, and these words, coming from this very laconic gentleman, made a
lasting impression on me. They were steeped in time and forged in a
sense of loyalty. They were part of a Masonic process.
``For those men contemplating becoming Masons, I strongly recommend that
they join us in the traditional manner... it is an
experience not to be missed.''
As a result of this exchange, and watching my father proceed through
life as a man who cherished kindness, honesty, and fair dealing with
all, I gathered that Freemasonry was an outward celebration of just the
kind of man he was, and that the fellowship of the old Craft was a
valued device within which such good men could congregate and
communicate. In fine, Freemasonry was more than a club. It was a
society within a society, a special relationship among men to be
This "favorable opinion conceived of the institution" made it all the
more exciting for me when, at last, on March 26, 1980, I was initiated
into Freemasonry as an Entered Apprentice in Monument Lodge No. 96,
AF&AM, of Houlton, Maine, USA. As the elderly tiler helped me dress for
my entrance, he remarked, "You know, Masons are all equal. I'm just an
old farmer...and I would not have met all these wonderful people if I
hadn't become a Mason." I don't know if he planned to say those words to
me, but the effect on me was like the planting of a seed. Again, the
process of Freemasonry was proceeding like the patient cultivation of a
crop. The truism of his seemingly off-hand words would echo across a
quarter century of "wonderful people" I would meet, and also befriend.
Even more dramatic was the pronouncment of the entrance ritual just
before my entrance into the lodge. With my mental preparation, it
seemed that the words had been written for me personally. Once again, I
felt I was part of a process.
My knowledge increased gradually with each degree that year of 1980:
with my EA memorization, with the panoply of information as a
Fellowcraft on May 14, the long summer (as it turned out) of perfecting
my FC memory lesson, and the high drama of my Master Mason degree on
November 5. Not expecting my hard-working, rarely traveling,
60-year-old Dad to get on an airplane and fly up to northern Maine for
the occasion, I nevertheless asked him if he would come to Houlton. 350
miles away, for this event. He didn't flinch. He agreed immediately
and cheerfully. My jaw dropped. Here I realized that there was a
patient process afoot, that Freemasons are closer than one would think,
that they take care of their own, across time and space. It was his
hand that raised me that evening, and next day he just took me to the
nearest jewelry store in Houlton and bought me a Master Mason ring, my
most cherished ring today.
In years to come, I would be a regular brother in attendance at
lodge, and see "many a brother and fellow" follow in my steps through
the degrees of Ancient Craft Masonry. This was happening in the usual
way, despite the crisis of membership we faced even in the early
``The activity of degree conferral... is emblematical of successful
labor, with the rewards of that labor being conferred in a magnificent
association of men.''
Suddenly, in the 1990s, a number of Grand Lodges of Masons decided
that the process of cultivating Masons was hindering the future growth
of the Fraternity, and came to conclusions which seem to me to never
have been made before by Masonic leaders: that most prospective
candidates for the degrees of Masonry are "too busy" to attend several
degree conferrals and memorize the lessons which are emblematical of
their honorable labor. They enacted provisions for so-called "One Day
Masons" or "One Day Classes", in which the precious experience which I
have outlined above would be gutted by expedience, to an assembly of men
which would observe all three degrees and leave the occasion as Master
Masons. True, this plan has the potential to swell the membership
roster and the coffers of the Grand Jurisdictions which adopt it. But,
my experience cries out, to what result? What kind of Mason, and by
extension, what kind of Masonry, will we have?
The rituals of the Grand Jurisdictions seem to militate against this
"reform". They speak of "waiting a time with patience", of "fitting our
minds as living stones for that spiritual building", that Freemasonry
should be on guard against the cowan or poorly educated Mason, that
Masons should be "duly qualified". But, most important, Freemasonry
continually emphasizes the message of craftsmanship, both in our usual
vocations, and in our relationships among people. Freemasonry is a call
to diligence, patience, and pride in one's work. How it can be
represented to anyone in a single day is beyond the ken of this Mason
who has been delighted to see it represented across a lifetime.
The slow steeping of anticipation and learning leading up to my
Master Mason degree is an experience that no thinking and feeling man
would deny himself. As the ritual itself explains, it is emblematical
of the passages of life itself, with the primary metaphor being work.
This is why we call the activity of degree conferral "degree WORK", or
"the WORK of the evening". It is emblematical of successful labor, with
the rewards of that labor being conferred in a magnificent association
of men. These strengths of purpose, I fear, are now under assault from
among our ranks.
Although I am a liege subject of a Grand Jurisdiction which supports
this plan, and am obligated as a Mason to cheerfully support its
execution, I cannot avoid a certain amount of dread in this matter, for
our Fraternity seems to be headed for a Pyrrhic victory---a victory of
numbers, but a setback in strength. For those men contemplating
becoming Masons, I strongly recommend that they join us in the
traditional manner. Again, it is an experience not to be missed, in an
organization of matchless worth, which offers a lifetime of satisfying
return unobtainable in one day of exposure.
In our requirements for membership, as on the floor of the lodge, we
should continue to square our corners, not cut them.
Bro. Paul Trusten
Midland Centennial Lodge No. 1448, AF&AM, Midland, TX
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