Pennsylvania Academy of Masonic Knowledge – Fall 2014

Pennsylvania Academy of Masonic Knowledge
Saturday, October 18, 2014

Masonic Cultural Center, Elizabethtown
, Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania Academy of Masonic Knowledge

The Pennsylvania Academy of Masonic Knowledge.

The 2014 Fall session of the Academy of Masonic Knowledge will be held on Saturday, October 18th, in the Deike Auditorium of the Masonic Cultural Center on the campus of Masonic Village in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania. Registration will open at 8:30 am with the program beginning at 9:30 am.  A lunch (requested contribution of $10) will be served at noon and the program will be completed by 3:00 pm.  All Masons are welcome to attend.  Dress is coat and tie.

The program for the day includes:

  • Professor David G. Hackett will speak on topics from his recently published book: That Religion in Which All Men Agree: Freemasonry in American Culture.

David G. Hackett is an Associate Professor of Religion at the University of Florida, having received his Ph.D. from Emory University in 1986.  He has published numerous books and articles and has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Louisville Institute for the Study of American Protestantism in American Culture.  In addition, Professor Hackett has been a resident scholar at Princeton’s Center for Theological Inquiry and the Collegeville Institute for Ecumenical and Cultural Research.

  • Brother W. Stephen Burkle will speak on the topic: Early Adoption of Paracelsus’ Alchemical Catechism by the Craft.

William Stephen “Steve” Burkle is a metallurgist by profession and works in the oil and gas industry.   He has traveled widely throughout the United States, Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East teaching, lecturing, and consulting.  He is an ordained Deacon in the Presbyterian Church.  Bro. Steve’s academic interests include Masonic symbolism, Alchemy, and esoteric Freemasonry, upon which he has published numerous articles. He recently completed his Master of Arts, and is currently a Doctoral Candidate, in Religious Studies.

 The great objective in Freemasonry is to gain useful knowledge, and the Academy provides a great opportunity for the Brethren to learn and to understand more about the significance of the Craft.  Plan to attend and bring a Brother or two along with you

Pre-registration is required

To pre-register, please send your name, address, Lodge number, and telephone by e-mail to:

If you do not have access to e-mail, please make your reservation through your Lodge Secretary.

Please recognize that a cost is incurred to the program for your registration.  If you pre-register and subsequently determine that you will be unable to attend, please have the Masonic courtesy to cancel your reservation by the same method and providing the same information.

 We look forward to seeing you on October 18th.


*Please note: The above information was copied verbatim from a newsletter sent me me from the Academy of Masonic Knowledge. 

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Of Investigation and Inquiry – Using Social Media to Investigate

Of Investigation and Inquiry

Of Investigation and Inquiry

Recently I came across a post on the facebook group “All Things Masonic” that was a seemingly simple question.   Asked by Bro. Byron Upton: “Should a petitioner’s facebook or other social media account be used as part of the investigation process?”

It was difficult for me to process the split in opinions on this matter. I couldn’t believe it actually. As of this blog post there have been 141 replies to this question. They range from the indecisive to the absolute polar ends. I cannot even say there is a clear majority without going through and counting each individual posters reply.

I am going to start out by saying my opinion, and then I will comment on a few replies that caught my attention.

For me, and for my lodge, I would say that any sort of investigation into a person’s character utilizes the materials we have available to us. This is especially true when cost is a factor. For no money at all, a lodge can quickly access information on an individual that has been posted on a public forum. Some chose to remain private, some may not understand how to make things private, but for anything that is out there to be viewed, I for one strongly feel it is fair game to use in an investigation of a potential member. It is at least fair game to be used to form questions for the candidate during the interview process.

Some of the responses in the negative included opinions that facebook and other social media sites are not an accurate representative of an individual and therefore should not be used. I say HOGWASH!   ….although I say it with caution. While it is absolutely true to say that facebook does not define a man from tip to toe, it does provide insight into much of their lives, friends, habits, and personality.

I am not sure why I would be incorrect by saying, “Isn’t that what we are looking for during an investigation?”   Granted, an investigation committee should not, and as a matter of fact CANNOT, use or base their overall conclusion on social media alone. That would be un-Masonic, cowardly, asinine, unfair, and downright stupid. What the investigation committee can and SHOULD do in my opinion is look at all aspects of posts and public information available to better create a series of questions for the candidate.

If you are like me, you hate facebook but cannot seem to stay away from it. I hate it, yet I can’t seem to get away from checking in the latest. I am constantly finding stuff that I have posted that was supposed to be private or for families to see only, but find out after 2 years the post was in fact public all along.   Because of this I have a simple rule…….try not to post offensive crap. Sounds simple enough, but never works out.

Your public opinions can land you in hot water. You public opinions can make or break a friendship. Your opinions are, however, YOUR opinions and as such are a representative of you as a person. For a guy like me, I am a very opinionated person. I care passionately about social issues and political topics. I always feel the need to voice my opinion. I have a private page that SHOULDN’T be visible to the general public and the friends I have on my page have either requested my friendship or I have requested theirs. If one of my “friends” does not like my opinion, they are free to unfriend. It is, however, my responsibility to conduct myself accordingly. As a private individual it is my responsibility to police my posts even if I think my political opinion will not be shared with some of my friends on the page.

As a candidate for membership, it is also your responsibility to police your public image and posts. While no one is saying you have to make facebook your professional resume, you would be foolish not to know that what you put online can and will be used against you sometimes.

Take my profile for example: I do not have my birthday listed for the public, however, according to facebook which required I was over a certain age when I joined in 2004, I was born February 29, 1956. If an investigation committee were to see this, common sense has to factor into investigation to a certain degree. Obviously I was not born on leap day 58 years ago.   On the other hand, if I was tagged by someone else in a picture side by side with a group white pointy hat wearing men burning a cross…….then I think it’s pretty much a given that I would either have some splainin’to do, or the photo spoke for itself. That is, a person in such a picture most likely has no place in Freemasonry. Again, this would be a question to bring up during the investigation.

As a matter of fact, if it was my investigation committee, odds are an image like that would be placed on the table shortly after “Hi, how are you today?”    The candidate will either have an explanation, or he won’t. Either way, I am doing my job to guard the west gate.

I honestly look at facebook investigation as a necessary evil. Sure, it’s your candidate’s personal page, but unfortunately that is what we are looking into, your personal life. This topic is of particular interest to me, as I have a first-hand experience dealing with a social media situation.

Like most internet savvy Masons, I constantly find myself looking for news stories, blogs, videos, and whatever, you name it, for mentions of the words “masonic” or “freemason.”   In doing this about a year ago I came across a YouTube video titled something along the lines of “My Freemason Diner.” (NOTE: I’ve modified the actual name here to protect the privacy of the lodge and the individual.) The video was of a young man who was video blogging himself getting ready to go to a dinner and meet a few brothers. Nothing is wrong here. This is exactly what happens all over the world. Because I am inquisitive, I started clicking on the individuals other videos. Some things just struck me as immature. Not so much wrong, but immature. This led me to his twitter and facebook accounts.   The entire time I was doing this I was finding more and more gray areas that, had it been my lodge, I would have wanted brought to my attention. I was seriously conflicted as to what to do, if anything. On one hand, it wasn’t my lodge, my investigation, or my business. On the other hand, it is all of our jobs to police our fraternity for the greater good.

After some back and forth I contacted the lodge secretary. This particular lodge (which was even a different jurisdiction than my own) was very happy to take my information, which I assured them I had no personal connection to at all, and add to their investigation. After a few weeks I received an unexpected thank you message from the secretary that stated, more or less, “Thank you. This man has some maturing to do.”

I think it is important to point out that the lodge seemed to me like they were willing to give some council to the young man. I don’t know what happened afterward. I just hope for all the best.   The main point here is, I found something on a public forum, I passed it along, and I left it up to the lodge to decide what steps, if any, to take. I would hope other lodges would do the same for me.

It is interesting to me that the opposition to using facebook as an investigation tool was as strong as it was. One theme I saw was a misunderstanding of the question where I believe some folks are thinking the questions was referring to using facebook instead of a face to face meeting. Never in a million years would that be acceptable. One on one is what we have to do.   However, I firmly believe we can and should be doing more.

What are your thoughts? Should we as a fraternity use any and all sources for investigation? Should we rely soley on what the candidates tell us in an interview? You know how I feel about it. I am curious to hear what you have to say.



If you like what I write about you may want to check out my book.

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Welcome to the blog!

I thought I’d share a little light here. Please check out The Two Foot Ruler. This personal blog is from Bro. Jason Richards, cohost of The Masonic Roundtable. Please check him out and show your support.

The 2-Foot Ruler

Brethren and Friends,

You have my humble thanks for reading this new blog. My name is JR, and I am a Mason in Virginia under the Grand Lodge of Virginia. I was raised in 2012, and have not, as yet, attained the illustrious title of “Past Master.”Nonetheless, this blog will serve as a repository for my analysis of and rumination on my role in the world’s oldest and largest fraternal organization. I hope you’ll share the journey with me.

On Tuesday nights, you can find me co-hosting The Masonic Roundtable ( with four of my close brethren and friends as we attempt to spur open, honest, and constructive discourse on recent developments within the Masonic fraternity.


freemason_street Freemason St., Norfolk VA

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All One Day Class Masons Should Just Quit, Right?

I Guess All One Day Class Masons Should All Just Quit, Right?

If you are a One Day Class Mason, you can probably relate to this post.

If you are a One Day Class Mason, you can probably relate to this post.

I felt the need to write this today to address the seriously pompous attitude that hundreds of our brethren have towards individual One Day Class Masons.  I really feel One Day Class Masons have gone through a belittlement and negative treatment by many brothers that is irresponsible at best, and un-Masonic to say the least.

While I am sure that MOST educated Masons can see the serious flaws of One Day Class events, I am left wondering why in the world the rest of the fraternity does nothing to help the situation, or the misguided brethren they seem to have a problem with.  I see equally worthless traditionally made do-nothing pieces of garbage that have slid through the West gate into our ranks that love to run their mouths about how crappy the One Day Class Mason is, while at the same time doing nothing to help the situation or take it upon themselves to study the landmarks and traditions of the fraternity.

I will be very clear in my distain for the practice of making Masons in one day, but as many of you know, I am a One Day Class Mason myself.  I am bothered more by this than any single human being on this Earth.  What I refuse to claim to be is some sort of a lower form of Mason or otherwise uneducated Mason.  I was led to the One Day Class by existing members.  I knew no difference at the time.

There are a few issues here where I can agree with most people who disagree with One Day Classes.

One Day Classes cheat a member out of a crucial experience that other Masons get. – I agree

One Day Classes often leave new members wondering aimlessly with no direction. – I agree

One Day Classes are designed primarily to boost numbers quickly. – I agree

How is any of the above the individual Mason’s fault?  I’m not talking about what he may or may not do once he finishes the One Day Class.  I am talking about the man who has been led to the One Day Class, often times by a traditionally made Mason.  How is it his fault by simply taking up an offer that was given to him?

Here is what upsets me to no end when surfing online or listening to others degrade the guys who have gone through the One Day Class events:  Often times, the pompous mouth spouting off makes zero distinction between his dislike of the PRACTICE of the One Day Class and the One Day Class Mason himself.  This arrogance is un-Masonic.

Look, It’s no secret that there is trash that comes in with a One Day Class, the real secret, or perhaps the unspoken truth that many of these brothers often forget to touch on, is that there is no lack of garbage that make it in the traditional way too.  This garbage will continue to breed garbage regardless if they are a One Day Class Mason or a traditional Mason.

While it is ok to disagree with the practice of a One Day Class, lumping all One Day Class Masons as a group of noncontributing do-nothing freeloaders is more detrimental to the Craft than anything in my opinion.  Look, I hate One Day Classes, but I will put my dedication, effort, and practice of Freemasonry up against any Mason, any day.

Also, another item to remember is that if you disagree with something so bad, make it known to the powers that can do something about it. Don’t arrogantly belittle a man simply based on his misguided ignorance of how the system was supposed to work.  Don’t anonymously post like a coward on in internet forum. For anyone to post belittling remarks about McMasons or other derogatory labels but not have the stones to discuss it with his District Deputy or Grand Lodge shows your cowardly attitude and lack of willingness to help the Craft.

Put yourself in the shoes of the One Day Class Mason who is trying his hardest to find his way.   What are they supposed to think about the Craft and its membership?  I can’t help but be bothered by the arrogance of some of these guys that are supposedly there to help their brothers.  Some super Masons you all must be.  You must be so far superior to all of us stupid One Day Class Mason’s aren’t you?  Thanks for the brotherly love.

If you read any of my previous blogs, or my book for that matter, you will all see that I believe a new member is a new member is a new member.  Yes, One Day Class’s have negatives in so many respects, but no new member is going to be so far advanced and educated beyond all expectations that they will be able to digest the ritual in which they took part in and understand it fully.   Will they be ahead?  Well, yeah, a little. They have a leg up, for sure, but any new member is not automatically God’s gift to Freemasonry.

While the One Day Class robs the member of the experience of being brought to light properly as well as so many other little things they should experience, I want to challenge any new traditional member to sit across the table from a NEW One Day Class Mason and discuss the ritual.  I bet they will both have a million curiosities that will require further instruction.

You are more than welcome to think our leadership has failed us.  You are more than welcome to disagree with the One Day Class conferrals. But it is not ok to prop yourself up as some super Mason and pretend you are so far superior to other Masons for showing up for 2 additional nights. The One Day Class Mason did not fail us; the fraternity failed us by allowing the practice to happen.   It was up to the fraternity to properly guide men and guard the West Gate and stick only the best leaders in charge.  The fraternity failed here in my opinion.  It was up to the fraternity to properly lead and instruct.  Our fraternity failed.

I disagree with One Day Class’s so much that it makes me angry when they come around, but I also took an oath to help aid and assist the fraternity to the best of my ability ,  to remind my brethren of their failings and to aid in their reformation.  While I disagree with what is happening, I also feel it time for the rest of the membership to take a stand and help correct the course. Educate others so that they too will uphold their obligation to help the fraternity and new member who needed guidance.  Don’t sit back and throw jabs and anonymous smart remarks.

As for the One Day Class Masons: LISTEN UP!  You already have a large portion of the Masonic world who thinks you are less of a Mason.  Sure, maybe they don’t say it to your face, but this feeling is out there, and you are kidding yourself if you think it’s not.  Stop giving them reasons for thinking you are a failure and get your acts together.  Perhaps if you don’t care about the fraternity enough to learn anything about it, then leave.  Get out now.  Resign.  Take a hike.  Go to the Moose.  Join the Lions.  You do no good here.   You aren’t doing the fraternity any good and you aren’t doing yourself any good by wasting money on dues for an organization that you are not using.

But, wait a minute, that line wasn’t just for the One Day Class Mason, it is for all the traditionally made trash we have in our ranks, too.

Here is where you all need to reread that paragraph above again.  Go, do it now.  The Masons who are here, who are reading this blog right now, like you, are doing it because they want to be better Masons.  You are either reading because you are a traditional Mason who saw the title and think you are somehow better than I or any other One Day Class Mason, or possibly you are a One Day Class Mason who saw the title and said, “Wait just a damn minute. I am an awesome Mason.”  You could just be neutral on the whole subject and only care about the true purpose of the Craft, which is self betterment and gaining useful knowledge.  Regardless, you are obviously a little more involved than others if you are taking the time to read about the Craft in your free time.

In other words, the crap bags of the fraternity, the card carriers, the low-lives, and the non-contributors are NOT reading this right now.  The men here, the men reading this, the men sharing this are here because they are actively involved in Freemasonry.  It’s my experience that card carriers and crap-bags rarely read books, let alone search out further information on Freemasonry.  Shouldn’t we focus our displeasure on those guys instead of the active members?

It’s all up to you. If you dislike One Day Classes, the work to end them.  Get on an interview committee and educate a potential candidate about the pit falls of a One Day Class.   If you dislike One Day Classes, then work to educate the men who have been led to them.  If you are tired of the crap we have flowing into the fraternity, then put up or shut up for the love of God.   What you can’t do is belittle the brothers who are trying to earn Freemasonry.  What you can’t do is claim dominance over every One Day Class Mason out there.

I’ve spent 10 years earning Freemasonry and discovering the tools that have been given to me. While, I disagree with the Once Day Class, I have seen the good and the bad in both systems.  Stop the ignorance and start acting like Masons already.  You will see that even though One Day Classes may not be ideal, there is no shortage of successful One Day Class Masons out there.


If you like what I write about you may want to check out my book.

Book_Cover_front_rgbEarning Freemasonry – A One Day Class Redemption is now available for purchase.
Click the link below to purchase through Paypal for $15.00 plus $5.00 for priority shipping.
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The Argument About Dues

21 February 2014 1 comment

The Argument About DuesIn today’s broke economy with many people out of work or underemployed, who wants to talk about raising the cost of anything?  I know I am stretched pretty thin as it is, so any increase in anything extracurricular would probably affect me.  As it stand now, the things many of us have to use every day like gas, insurance, electricity, and general household items have gone through the roof in the past few years. So why start the debate on the cost of dues now?

There is no question that dues have not increased with inflation.  There is no question that dues are merely a fraction of what they used to be at one time compared to the cost of living.  My Blue Lodge dues, 60 bucks a year, aren’t necessarily high, but they are higher than they were just a few years ago when we voted raise them from $50 when I was Master in 2012.

With such low cost of dues most of us can afford membership today, but still we have guys on the non-payment list in April when dues were due in January.  I got to thinking, is that because people really can’t pay? Is it because people just don’t care? Then I think, perhaps they just aren’t high enough to be taken serious.

Full disclosure here, I too, sometimes fall into the category of men who will pay a little late more times than I’d like.  This is not because I don’t have the money, but many times simply because I know I will be going to the lodge soon and think, “Well, I’ll just take them in when I go.”   After all, I am pretty active, I enjoy lodge, and I am pretty sure the Secretary knows I am going to pay up.  Does that make being late with dues ok?  No, not at all.  But, Eh’ sorry. Sue me.

There could be a million reasons why the average Joe is late paying dues, but I think a major reason is that for much of the early history of Freemasonry the average Joe was never intended to be a member. This is partly because he couldn’t afford to be a member.  This was an elite group of men gaining elite men.  (notice I said elite, not elitist) This was a network in many ways, if course, but it also was very selective.  Does that mean that all men who COULD afford high dues were the best candidates?  Hardly.  Does that mean that all men who COULDN’T afford membership were not otherwise great candidates for Freemasonry? Again, hardly.

In just one example using a well-known man, I did the math. According to existing records from Fredericksburg lodge, when Washington was initiated, a fee of 2 pounds, 3 shillings was paid.  By today’s standards £2 roughly equals $3.27. Three shillings is about 72 cents.  Because the exchange rates could vary slightly I am just going to round and call it $4.00.  Converting back to pounds, $4.00 is roughly £2.45.  Using an inflation calculator online we can see that £2.45 in 1752 is roughly equivalent to about £385.80 today.  Converting this to dollars and we can see that about $630.78 was paid for Washington’s initiation.

Let’s call that 600 dollars.  Right there, I think, is a major factor in the free-for-all we have going on. Any man who wants to join can, and does, without making it a serious life decision.  I don’t know how it works in many of your houses, but 600 dollars is not something I can just float willy-nilly on a club that I may or may not want to be actively involved with.

Lodge dues currently can vary wildly.  I have seen dues at 40 dollars and I have seen dues well over 100 dollars.  It is very rare that you see dues at 600 dollars, although they are out there.  Does that mean that I think that we should just jack dues to unbelievably high amounts?  Not necessarily.

For many men, Freemasonry is used as it was intended or at least the closest to it as it can be.  We have been given tools to use, and we put them to work.  For other men, they are given the tools to use, go out and buy a ring and a bumper sticker, and contribute very little to Freemasonry other than their 60 dollars a year.

Speaking as a po-boy who loves Freemasonry, here is where I am torn.  I, like many other people, do not fall into that upper category of wage earners.  If I told my wife I wanted to spend 600 dollars to be initiated into a fraternity I would most likely have pieces of me removed in my sleep.  In short, I probably would not be a Freemason if dues and initiation were to skyrocket.  I do think there is an answer though.

Incentive programs and chances to earn Freemasonry can take a dedicated man, at any level of income, and open the doors to him.  I think that having dues at the level of $500 or more can serve as an instant deterrent for many guys who just want to slap a square and compass sticker on their bumper.  They would have to make the choice; “Do I care enough about this whole Mason thing to spend 500 dollars a year on it?”  or;  “Do I care enough about this whole Mason thing to work down the cost of dues and initiation?”   The men who truly want to join at this point will join.  The card carriers would most likely work themselves out of the system over the course of a few years.  There will still be a few well off non-contributors who will continue to treat it as a good old boys club, but I can argue that those fellas are here now.

If I knew that I could earn back a portion of my initiation and dues each year by performing certain tasks such as reading and writing reviews on books, presenting programs, and otherwise earning Freemasonry perhaps I wouldn’t mind the high cost of dues.  I would know going into it that there is a cost involved, but also that there is a way to lighten that burden.

One of our greatest problems, in my opinion, is not enough men joining, but rather, too many under-qualified men running the system without knowing what the system is.  A system of forced education, or incentive based education, would ensure that the men who join, would, by default, learn something and use the Craft.

Over time, the Craft could go from an organization of card carriers back to the benevolent society it once was.  This could, in turn, create that desire for men to join for the correct reasons and reduce the desire for men to join just to get the title.

What about the guys who are financially stable who are generally not involved?  Sad as it may be, there will still be the glory hounds who are better off and who can afford to just sneeze away 600 bucks.  Let them.  With a growing fraternity of qualified and educated men, the system should improve overtime.  The interviewers should become more selective as they become better educated.

I can also see incentives to serve as lodge officers with perhaps very good incentives to serve as Master for a year or more.  If dues are reduced based on your accomplishments, and perhaps even eliminated upon becoming a Past Master, then the goal for many would be to naturally become a Past Master.

Perhaps it is the capitalist in me, but I see a free market system so to speak.  The desire to become a Past Master may be increased creating actual competition for the chair.  Anytime that competition is introduced into a system the best usually prevail.

If said competition exists, I can see it most likely spilling over to other areas.  With a back log of qualified men working to be viewed as the most capable for the job, simply being certified in the degree work may not be enough to be elected Master anymore.  Would we then see other areas of the lodge start to increase productivity?  I think so.  I see men who know the ritual and floor work who are taking on other positions such as education, mentoring, programs and other aspects of the lodge that many times fall by the wayside.

Some men may have no desire to be Master.  These men can earn back some of the cost by researching a specified topic and presenting to lodge.  A system of incentives for performance could chip away at dues cost.

Over the years, no doubt, people grow tired of keeping up.  Even the most dedicated of Masons get burned out from time to time and take a hiatus from lodge.  For this, I see the dues coming down more and more as you reach milestones.  Currently we celebrate members who reach their 25, 50, and 60 year milestones with pins in Pennsylvania.  In my lodge, we forgive dues for 50 year members.    Perhaps even more reduction in dues can happen as you reach the other lower milestones.  I see dues forgiveness happening much earlier than that with incentives for education and understanding of the craft.

There is an argument of, “Well, we are all supposed to be equal and on the level.  How can one person have lower dues than another?”  For this, I have to say, go back and study what the level actually means.  To be on the level means that we all have the same opportunity for advancement and to gain the rights and privileges in the lodge.  With that said, any member who strives to chip away or defer the cost of his dues  would have the exact opportunity that others would have.

To recap, high cost of dues would act as an immediate deterrent for fly-by-night men who think they will just join on a whim.  Men could work their dues cost down.  Working their dues cost down would, by default, leave the fraternity with educated men.  Educated men, over time,  would secure the West gate.  With a secure West gate, our fraternity could work back to restoring the status and purpose it is intended for.

Maybe I am completely off base here.  What do you think?

(2/23/14: It was brought to my attention that my calculations on Washington’s initiation fee were not exactly accurate. Facebook follower Glenda Ray told me it actually would be about the equivalent of $826 today (1£=12 oz sterling silver in those days) and given that the average American earned less than £30 a year, £3 was more than a month’s wage. I simply used conversion charts that told me today’s pounds to dollars, then used another site that gave me supposed historical inflation rates. Regardless, the point I make is still accurate. We can all agree, the amount paid back in the day was considerably substantial compared to our almost non-existent dues amounts today. Thanks Glenda Ray for the clarification)


If you like what I write about you may want to check out my book.

Book_Cover_front_rgbEarning Freemasonry – A One Day Class Redemption is now available for purchase.
Click the link below to purchase through Paypal for $15.00 plus $5.00 for priority shipping.
Books purchased here will be signed and sent directly from the author.

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Categories: Uncategorized

Earning Freemasonry – A One Day Class Redemption, NOW AVAILABLE!

Earning Freemasonry – A One Day Class Redemption is now available for purchase.


Click the link below to purchase through Paypal for $15.00 plus $5.00 for priority shipping.

Books purchased here will be signed and sent directly from the author.

Modern Freemasonry is changing. A new member today is brought into a fraternity much different than their fathers and grandfathers fraternity. Changing demographics and declining membership numbers have brought on many short cuts to membership and advancement in the Lodge. Designed to boost membership, combat a declining older generation, and fit better in the modern man’s life, one day classes and easing of membership have opened the flood gates to Freemasonry. Thousands of men have been made Freemasons in one day classes over the past decade. Countless others have become Freemasons in a more relaxed lodge than existed just a few years ago. While some of these men go on to do great things in Freemasonry, the sad reality remains, many men joining today do little more than get a card in their wallet. Any Freemason, be he a card carrier, officer, Past Master, or otherwise regular member has a part to play in our Fraternity. Some men take the long way; some men take the short cuts. Regardless of how you were given the tools of Freemasonry, it is up to the individual man to earn them. This books details one man’s journey from citizen to Freemason in a one-day-class. Through firsthand experience, observation, and opinion, the author explains the pit falls and trials that go along with the easing of the order and offers insight on how we may be able to correct our missteps. From the new Mason to the Past Master, this book is designed to help any member earn Freemasonry and start enjoying the true benefits of the Craft.

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Dude, Where’s my Lodge?

Ask yourself that question.  The answer is simple.  You know exactly where your lodge building is.  You could drive there tonight if you wanted to.  So, then what’s with the question?

As I get further into reading, writing and networking with my online brethren, I find myself asking this question more and more.  Now, I do enjoy my friends at lodge.  They are great guys.  We all get along great.  We all share good times in our lives and families from time to time outside of lodge, and generally, most people are happy. 

But, I always come back to this question or other questions similar.  “What really are we doing here?”, “Why aren’t we having philosophical discussions?”, “When will we start doing something, anything, Masonic in our meetings?”  A key frustration of mine has always been lack of Masonic programs and less than fraternal discussion during meetings.  It’s known that I feel this way, but I have recently come to the understanding that I am not the only one who feels this way. 

In the past two years I have been fortunate enough to find an outlet for my thirst for Masonic information.  The world of online networking and social media, for me, has become what my lodge is not.  Again, I need to make it clear, I love my brothers at the lodge, but I can’t remember ever having a deep or enlightening discussion in lodge.  I have seen some very good presentations and programs, but have come up short on the discussions of the who, where, what, why, and how that SHOULD go along with every meeting. 

I don’t know about you all, but when I open facebook and see Bro. Shawn Eyer has just posted 10 new pics of the George Washington Masonic Memorial, or when John Paul Gomez releases a new necktie on Fraternal Ties, or when I see Living Stones or Working Tools Magazine post info about their latest editions I can’t help but be left fulfilled as an informed brother.  It truly is an amazing world, this internet.

I consider myself fortunate because I have been able to connect with men who are delivering much of what I am looking for, just seeking light, sharing what they know, and helping others also find their niche in Freemasonry.  From authors, to podcasts, to blogs, to facebook and social media, I have come to realize that the lodge experience I am missing in lodge has actually been found online.  I will admit, part of that reality makes me sick, but I cannot deny the fact that it has been overwhelmingly helpful and far exceeds any form of enlightenment I have ever received sitting in my actual lodge. 

So, where is my lodge?  The building is in Hollidaysburg, PA, but the light I seek has come from very public sources such as Robert Johnson (Whence Came You podcast), and Juan Sepulveda (The Winding Stairs podcast.)  I have had the opportunity of meeting with authors or at least communicating one on one with modern authors writing about various aspects of the Craft relevant to modern Freemasonry.  These men like Charles Harper (Freemasonry in Black and White), Shawn Gorley (Freemasonry Defined), Cliff Porter (A Traditional Observance Lodge), Andrew hammer (Observing the Craft), and many more that could fill up an entire page. 

These men have become my lodge in many regards.  With the podcast, books, magazines, and most recently the Masonic Roundtable video discussions getting started I, and thousands of men from around the county, are able to stay informed with what is happening pretty much as it is happening.  We are suddenly able to discuss all (ok, most) topics of Freemasonry at any hour of the day.  Answers are immediate many times and help on any subject is a text message away. 

Years ago, this is what your actual lodge did.  Men of similar interest would meet in smaller, intimate groups.  Good men that were prominent in their communities took part in philosophical discussions that actually improved their lives and made them care a little bit more about the security of the West gate.  Since lodges today have become complacent and pretty much admit most men who petition, the exclusiveness of our lodges in not what it used to be.  I am not suggesting that lodges should be full of prominent elected officials or made up entirely of lawyers and doctors and other community leaders, after all, if they were like that I most likely would have never gained admission, but we should be a little bit more selective in our admission. 

Our lodges have become a place to pay bills and meet once a month, but the actual work for many of us is being done between meetings by the new generation of movers and shakers claiming their stake in this fraternity. 

While talking on the phone with my good Friend and Brother Shawn Gorley (Driven by Light Blog) we were discussing the restoration of the fraternity and where it may be headed.  As bleak as some aspects of our forecast were, I found myself becoming more and more optimistic as we talked about our upcoming travel and presentations we have scheduled.  We talked about our friends from around the state that were having both Shawn and I, as well as other young movers and shakers come speak.  I was overcome with a feeling of optimism as I thought about the lodges who were now about to become exposed to this group on men who unknowingly came about independent of each other, many hundreds of miles away from each other but were now becoming extremely useful as a group a spreading the light of Freemasonry. 

Authors, podcast personalities, presenters, historians, ritualist and generally a new generation of good Freemasons coming down the pike will be exposing the newest, or perhaps some older members to the true purpose of Freemasonry for the first time. 

Showing complacent lodges that any Joe Shmoe individual is capable of delivering light to others can, and should, be exactly what we, as said movers and shakers, should be doing.  I am happy to see these men traveling to lodges, talking to followers, replying to messages, and building a community of younger brethren simply by doing what they do. 

There is a lot of talk about Masonic restoration lately.  It is an uphill battle, especially now when it seems that the establishment and many Grand Lodges are all too eager to keep changing and simplifying everything.  The guys that blog, podcast, and write may be the mentors that many lodges need.  We may be the first shovel of dirt on the construction site.  I see it as being up to us to create interest for the complacent.  If we keep doing what we are doing by staying active and staying informed I think it is likely, as outnumbered as we are, that we can build the next generation of men excited to keep the building project going. 

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The Washington Monument Commemorative Stone of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania

Click to enlarge.  Image from

Freemasons and students of Masonic history can claim many connections to some of America’s greatest national treasures.  Because of the esteem in which our Craft once held, it was not uncommon to have Masonic lodges asked to perform public cornerstone ceremonies and dedications to many of the nation’s best known buildings and monuments.  (readers may recall my Gettysburg blog here) As you can imagine, any organization asked to participate or contribute to the construction of a national memorial has a sense of pride and contribution to history.  The Masons are no different.

According to Pennsylvania Grand Lodge minutes, in June of 1848, an invitation sent from the Grand Lodge of Washington DC was received and accepted by the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania to “attend and assist in the ceremonies of laying the corner Stone of the Washington National Monument.”  The ceremony took place the following month on July 04, 1848, Independence Day1

When the Freemasons laid the cornerstone of the George Washington National Monument in DC it not only put another short notation in the history books about the Masons, it also opened up an opportunity for Masonic lodges and other civic and patriotic organizations to have their mark placed in American history as part of the very structure itself.

When construction began the Washington National Monument Society, which formed in 1833 as a private association, allowed donation of blocks to be incorporated for a twofold purpose.  The first was so all states of the Union could feel represented by the monument, and the second was to aid in fundraising and construction costs.  The society originally planned to accept monetary donations along with the donated stones, but it seems many blocks came without such donation.2

There are 193 commemorative blocks inside the Washington Monument.  That is, there are 192 commemorative stones, and 1 commemorative block of copper ore. The latter donated by the state of Michigan.3   The stones were donated by individual states, societies, and private citizens.  These stones range is size and style.  Some are very basic with simple inscriptions, while others are incredibly complicated with fine detail.   The Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania’s stone fits into the latter category.

The Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, like many other societies, had an interest in donating a stone. In September of 1850 a motion was made to secure an appropriate amount of money “to procure a block of Penna. marble to be fashioned as a Keystone and inserted as part of the National Monument to Washington to bear the inscription from the Grand Lodge of Masons of the Keystone State in memory of the Masonic virtues of Washington or some other inscription that the Grand Master or Grand Lodge may direct.”4   A committee was formed for the purpose of designing and executing the project and to report the cost back to Grand Lodge.

In November that year the committee reported back that it had in fact met several times to work out the details of furnishing a block of marble as well as a design to be carved into the stone. The final cost of the stone was set not to exceed $500.00.  The carving design was supplied free of charge by committee chairman Bro. G. Parker Cummings who was Worshipful Master of Lodge No. 19.5

Gordon Parker Cummings

Gordon Cummings, or as most records record his name, G. Parker or GP Cummings, was a talented architect.  He was born around 1809 and was one of the first architects to have significant works on both coasts of the growing Republic.  Along with his many achievements, he was responsible for Philadelphia’s first structure supported by iron rather than timber, the cast iron Penn Mutual building. He also designed the Grand Lodge of Colored Masons, an Early English Gothic style, in 1851.  He went west to San Francisco after the gold rush boom where he is remembered for numerous building as well as the capitol of Sacramento.6

Cummings made it back to Philadelphia where died in 1889.  At the time of his death he was living in the Masonic Home in Philadelphia.  He was buried at Monument Cemetery, but unfortunately he did not remain there long.  Not to get too far off topic, but it is worth pointing out that in the 1950’s with expanding and changing times, Monument Cemetery which held more than 28,000 bodies was sold to Temple University.  Part of the university’s explanation required removing and relocating the bodies in the cemetery.  Today, it seems, there is no really good records of what happened to most of the bodies, with many being put into a mass grave.  Hundreds, if not thousands of headstones were dumped into the river.  To read more about Monument Cemetery check out The Cemetery Traveler blog here.7

William Struthers

Grand Lodge minutes indicate that the work was to be “carried out under the superintendence of a Special Committee appointed for that purpose, whose duty it shall be to see that none but the most skilful artists are employed and that the work be done in the most superior manner.” The man chosen to carry out said work was Bro. William Struthers.8

Detail on the George Washington tomb. (Photo from Adam T. Osman)

Struthers was born to Scottish parents in January of 1812.  He followed his family profession and became a marble mason.  His father John is credited with several well-known monuments including the new marble sarcophagi of George and Martha Washington as well as the sarcophagus of Henry Clay and that of Isaac Hull, Commodore of the United States Navy.9   I’ll point out here that, while Johns name is on the side of the Washington sarcophagi, and most historians believe he is the carver, there are claims that another man actually carved the eagle and shield, while Johns firm simply supplied the marble.10

By 1840 William and his father were working under the title John Struthers and Son.  William expanded the family business and his work can be seen in various places around Philadelphia, most notably Philadelphia’s City Hall.11

Struthers not only carved the stone for the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, but also was responsible for the Corporation of the City of Philadelphia stone.12

Despite the Grand Lodge Minutes on 1850 stating the stone would be placed at the 2nd landing, the actual location of the Grand Lodge stone is on the 16th landing, approximately 180 feet up. The following description was taken from “The Voice of Freemasonry” magazine in 1997.  (see link in reference for more Masonic stone information)13

On the 180-foot level, at the sixteenth landing, the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania contributed a richly carved marble stone. Prominent upon the stone is carved an arch and keystone. The keystone contains a seal with four quarterings with a lion, a man, a cow, and an eagle, traditional emblems of the four apostles. Above the seal on the keystone is “Holiness unto the Lord”, below the seal is “From the Keystone State, A.D. 1851 A.L. 5851.” Above the keystone two angels guard with uplifted wings a small ark of the covenant. To the right of the arch is a crumbling wall surmounted by masonic tools set against a wooded hill. To the left is a wall of finished ashlar surmounted by a masonic altar and tools against another wooded hill. In the clouds on a banner to either side of the keystone is the inscription “Ad majorem Supremi Architect Glorium”.

While this is not meant to be a study of all the commemorative blocks in the monument, the resources below can provide hours of further study.

As of today the Washington Monument remains closed due to the earth quake that hit the Washington DC area in 2011.  Before the earthquake it was possible at certain times to ride the elevator up and walk down the inside to view the memorial stones.  This is no longer the case.  Perhaps someday things may change and you may be able to view the stone with your very eyes.

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  1. Minutes of the Right Worshipful Grand Lodge of the Most Ancient and Honorable Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons of Pennsylvania and Masonic Jurisdiction Thereunto Belonging, Volume VII, 1840-1848, Page 494
  2. The Washington Monument: A Technical History and Catalog of the Commemorative Stones p. 8 ( accessed 9/28/13
  3.  The Washington Monument: A Technical History and Catalog of the Commemorative Stones p. 1 ( accessed 9/27/13
  4. Minutes of the Right Worshipful Grand Lodge of the Most Ancient and Honorable Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons of Pennsylvania and Masonic Jurisdiction Thereunto Belonging, Volume VIII, 1849-1854, Page 112
  5. Minutes of the Right Worshipful Grand Lodge of the Most Ancient and Honorable Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons of Pennsylvania and Masonic Jurisdiction Thereunto Belonging, Volume VIII, 1849-1854, Page 117
  6. Biography from the American Architects and Buildings database,, accessed 9/27/2013.
  7. How Monument Cemetery was Destroyed, The Cemetery Traveler – by Ed Snyder, accessed 9/28/13
  8. Minutes of the Right Worshipful Grand Lodge of the Most Ancient and Honorable Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons of Pennsylvania and Masonic Jurisdiction Thereunto Belonging, Volume VIII, 1849-1854, Page 117
  9. Philadelphia Graveyards and Cemeteries, By Thomas H. Keels, page 107.
  10. Andrew Doig, John Struthers & George Washington’s Sarcophagus, accessed 9/28/2013
  11. Biography from the American Architects and Buildings database,, accessed 9/28/2013.
  12. The Washington Monument: A Technical History and Catalog of the Commemorative Stones p. 124 ( accessed 10/28/13
  13. The Voice of Freemasonry, Grand Lodge, F.&.A.M., of the District of Columbia, Spring 1997

Learning How to Die – The Importance of the Skull in Freemasonry

27 October 2013 1 comment
The Caput Mortuum - Deaths Head

The Caput Mortuum – Deaths Head.

I recently returned from a very interesting presentation by Bro. Arturo de Hoyos at the October 2013 meeting of the Pennsylvania Academy of Masonic Knowledge.  Bro. de Hoyos was to present on Masonic ritual, but being that it was so close to Halloween, he informed us he would take the angle of the use of the skull in our Masonic ritual.  Boy, was this an eye opener.

Anyone looking for information on Freemasonry, no doubt, has come across illustrations of the skull and crossbones.  To many, this is an ominous item that we tend to shy away from today.  It is seen by some as morbid, evil, scary, and even Satanic by some.  It has been shoved to the corner of society with things we associate with being dark, negative, and unpleasant.

I am no different.  I have seen this symbol.  I realize it symbolizes death.  I understand that it was used early on more than it is used today, and I see why, by today’s standards, this symbol could be seen as sinister by many of the profane.

After watching this presentation and reflecting on what Bro. de Hoyos spoke about, I began to think that my definition and feelings on Freemasonry may be a little off.

When asked what Freemasonry is, I tend to repeat one of the first passages we all hear each month at lodge.  Found in the opening charge is the phrase “useful knowledge is the great object of our desire.”   This is simple.  It is much easier than the “system of morality, veiled in allegory, and illustrated by symbols” definition that is standardly thrown around.

When someone asks, “What is the point of Freemasonry?”  I have to go no further than the first few words of our opening charge.  The purpose is to gain useful knowledge.  This knowledge is used to make us better people.  We use this knowledge to refine our characters and live better lives.

When I step back and look at the way I explain it to people, I realize that there is more.  The next question I ask myself is, “Why live a better life?”  On the surface it seems simple.  If you live a better life, you will be a better person.  You will improve all that is around you.  Things will go better and be better if you live a better life.   Still, there is more to living than what is here in now.  At the end of life is death.  Death is A LOT longer.

While it is true that being a good person can make your life better, I realized the purpose of living a better life is to achieve admission to a better afterlife.  In a nice life, we are on this Earth for 90 years, 100 if we are lucky.  100 years is a long time to a living human, but it’s just a blink of the eye in the grand scheme of things.  If the lifestyle lived as a Freemason is giving me knowledge to polish my rough edges, the end goal will be to get into Heaven.  (or whatever you call your spiritual afterlife) The end point of life is death.  This makes the purpose of Freemasonry simply to learn how to die.

Society seems to have taken the unpleasant images of the world and not just pushed them aside, but downright vilified them.  Anymore it seems as though displaying a skull and crossbones is downright creepy.  And really, in today’s day and age, it is.

This symbol has gone the way of the swastika in many regards.  Of course the about-face that the swastika took is an extreme example of symbol bastardization.  In today’s world it would be hard for most people to think a home flying a large swastika flag in the front yard is the best place to send your girl scouts to sell cookies.  The skull has taken a similar seat in society.

Why should we care about the skull?  Well, for starters we need to focus on what it actually symbolizes.  The skull is a symbol of death and mortality.  Pushing aside all profane and otherwise misuses of the skull, I think it’s time the Freemason starts to focus on the skull.  It might not even be a bad idea to display it in a place where he sees it every day.   For other peoples ignorance sake, I wouldn’t recommend displaying this on a 3×6 flag in your front yard, or even on a badge on the back of your car, but for the purpose of self-awareness it could be displayed inside your home, on a key ring, maybe even as an accompanying symbol on your masonic ring.  You are doing this for your own good, no one else.

If you do this, of course, you need to also be educated enough to be able to defend yourself when the questions inevitably start coming.  I realize there are many reasons we don’t use this symbol as much as we once did in regular craft Freemasonry, but I think it would benefit us all to be reminded daily why we live by the working tools.  Death is just around the corner.  We have no idea when it is coming, and we have no idea how old we’ll be when it happens.

As we strive to live by the working tools, we need to keep in mind the reason for doing so.  Knowing what the working tools mean won’t make you a better person if you aren’t executing their direction.  Understanding Masonic Philosophy won’t help you if you don’t use it as a tool for improvement.  All the knowledge in the world won’t transform you into the fine ashlar for use in that spiritual temple unless you are actually polishing your rough edges.

So, is Freemasonry about acquiring useful knowledge to live a better life?  Yes.  However, in light of my most recent experience, I think Freemasonry could be more about preparing you to die.   The skull is no more sinister than the swastika if you look at its original symbolic purpose.  The skull is merely a reminder that you will die.  Shouldn’t we be privately using this more as just another daily Masonic symbol?  I know I will be.

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Modern Masonry

21 September 2013 1 comment

The Modern Masonic Family in Pennsylvania


A lot has changed in Freemasonry in the past 100 years.  It seems a lot of that change has happened in the last 10 years. Our fraternity, which is extremely similar from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, also has an endless list of differences that sometimes are confusing to the new Mason.

I will start off with saying this blog post was written for the Mason who has a few years in already.  I am writing it for the Mason who has maybe made a few missteps by jumping into an appendant or concordant body too quickly.  This is meant to be satire, and maybe even slight criticism of the system, but all in good fun.  Don’t take it too seriously.

I’ve put together this chart to illustrate some of these differences as seen by a Pennsylvania Freemason.  Much of this can be applied to other jurisdictions, but being from Pennsylvania, this is how I see it.

Most of us are familiar with the charts that pop up in Masonic books or in the front of your bibles that illustrate the supposed hierarchy of Freemasonry.  As a Freemason with a little experience, you should know much of this hierarchical illustration is not as it seems in the pretty charts.  By that, I mean, yes, there is a progression.  Some degrees have prerequisites.  Some appear to be the top.  The traditional chart illustration, no doubt, leaves the new Mason feeling like his puny three degrees are worthless.   However, after a few years of learning the system, one realizes that that nicely organized chart is misleading.  I have created this chart, which is not as pretty, and possibly even just as confusing, to illustrate how I see it.

Another thing about my chart: I’ve left off the many many many other appendent bodies of Freemasonry such as AMD, Eastern Star, the youth groups, etc.  Perhaps someday I’ll incorporate them, but for now I think this tells a pretty good story.

Looking at this chart you will see that we start much like the common illustrations start, with the first three degrees.  A man moves from an entered Apprentice, to Fellow Craft, to Master Mason with the first three degrees in the first three steps.  These steps typically take about one month per degree to complete.    What is different about my chart, however, is that directly beside the first three steps in Freemasonry is an escalator that takes a man from ground level to Master Mason with no effort and in literally a fraction of the time.  In my opinion, the journey from darkness to Masonic light does not happen as it should with the escalator and typically requires a little more work on the candidate to figure out.

The Shrine
From the platform of Master Mason, if one chooses to do so, he can jump directly onto the rocket ship that takes him to Shrine membership.  Of course, you’ll also see that they become members of Shriners International, not the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, which no longer exists.  Once the new member becomes a Shriner (sometimes a few hours after he becomes a dues paying Mason with a card in his wallet) it takes some time to learn that this new fraternity he is in, which at one time appears at the pinnacle of some Masonic family illustrations, is in fact, no more than separate, but noble, fraternity with very little Masonic connection at all.  Even the original logo is falling away as the new logo of Shriners International is slowly cutting the last remaining connection to the Freemasons.

This brings us to the next item to cover:

The Scottish Rite

Now, since I am part of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction of the Scottish Rite, this chart only displays how things are in my neck of the woods.  Notice that instead of a clean cut hierarchy of degrees, what we have here is more like the game Chutes and Ladders.  The new Mason who just put a Blue Lodge card in his wallet now enters yet even another body of Freemasonry and takes the ladder directly to that glorious number 32 just as immediate as he took the escalator from 1-3.  The new member is quickly impressed with everything thrown his way, and is told that he should, at some point in his life, go through and witness all of the degrees of the Scottish rite.  The chutes and ladders make this possible.  Sometimes the 14th degree is being put on, the next time the 10th and 25th may be put on.  Feel free to climb around and slide down back and forth between degrees.  What is difficult to illustrate here is that degrees are not always conferred in your local Valley.  While each Valley does have the capability to do each degree, the reality is, many do not have a consistent rotation of all of the degrees.  If you want all the degrees you will need to hit the road, sometimes traveling across several states to “collect them all.”   Oh, another thing that is difficult to illustrate is that just because you may have witnessed them all, in the Northern Jurisdiction, they can change from time to time.  With this, even if you have seen them all, you may need to see them all again if you want to stay 100% current.

This brings us to:

The York Rite

Now, this is yet again confusing to the new Mason who jumps right in.  In Pennsylvania at least, our York Rite System differs from many other York Rite Jurisdictions in that we have a Grand Chapter of Pennsylvania.  Yep, we have a sovereign and independent Grand Chapter that we share mutual recognition with the some other sovereign state Grand Chapters and the General Grand Chapter International.

In our Grand Chapter there are a series of degrees that run from 4-7.  That SHOULD be 4 degrees, although the candidate goes from 4-6, skipping over the 5th degree, or Past Master degree.  This gave me the idea to illustrate this entire Rite as game of hopscotch.

In Chapter, new candidates just become what has been dubbed a “Virtual Past Master” when they go from degree 4 to 6.  In Pennsylvania, the Past Master degree is actually conferred on you upon being elected to the position of Worshipful Master of your Blue Lodge, and is conferred by the Past Masters of your Lodge.  This is where you get the word of the chair and become a Past Master.

Again, this is Pennsylvania, most other Grand Chapters actually have the Past Master degree that give you the word of the chair making you a Past Master, even if you have never served as Master of your Lodge.   To complicate it a little more, in most European Lodges there is not a Past Master degree, but an “Install Master” degree.  It would be time consuming and monotonous to list all of the differences of individual Jurisdictions in regards to their Past Master degree, but if you want more info a simple internet search for “Past Master Degree” can yield many results.

As the York Rite moves from Chapter, we go into Council, which from there moves on to Commandary.  Notice the graphic: the hopscotch graphic gets further away as you move higher up the Rite.  I did this to illustrate that in my opinion, as you move further away from Chapter, you get further away from Freemasonry.

While Council still follows closely the story we are familiar with in Blue Lodge dealing with the temple and Hiram Abiff, the degrees deal more with the building/destruction/rebuilding of the temple.  It can be confusing to some as it is considered a prerequisite for Commandary in some Jurisdictions, (not in Pennsylvania) and is a series of three degrees, but only two are required for advancement in York rite, and one is only sometimes put on.  This optional, or honorable, degree, Super Excellent Master, is illustrated to the side as it is not always part of the game, and many people chose not to even see it even if offered because they are only doing Council to get to Commandary and the Knight Templar Degree.  It is worth repeating here that in some York Rite Jurisdictions Council is not required to go onto Commandary, while in others it is.

From Council we go into Commandary, which is a series of degrees also referred to as the Chivalric Orders by some.  These degrees are beautiful, and when correctly put on are said to be some of the most powerful of the entire degree system.  As stated above, these degrees are wonderful, but move away from Masonic principles, and some could argue are even un-Masonic altogether.  The order of the Knight Templar is conferred upon those only who promise to defend the Christian religion.  While this is wonderful for an individual Christian, it is very exclusionary, and goes against one of the most basic tenants of Freemasonry as being “on the level.”   For guys like me, this is extremely conflicting as I recognize its exclusionary practice, but someday I would like to experience this degree and become a Knight Templar.

While our system isn’t perfect, it is our system and it is up to us to use it to its fullest.  Perhaps my entire write up and illustration can be considered a waste of time as the purpose of Freemasonry is to make a good man a better man.  While I have a vision of how Freemasonry should work, it is just that, MY VISION.  There may be another guy who becomes a better person out there while taking all the short cuts available to him.  In that case, Freemasonry worked for that guy too.  We are all brothers, we are all human.  My hope is that this satirical illustration and written opinion can help others view the system in a slightly different manner.  Maybe it will be an eye opener; maybe it will make some folks mad.  The point is, you can use Freemasonry to its fullest, or you can use parts of it as it fits your life.  Educate yourself, and then try to educate others.  Be aware of the degree system before jumping in.

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