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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.

-ATO
——————————————–

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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 http://www.nps.gov.

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.

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.

Keep up to date with me on facebook at:
www.facebook.com/SquareOfVirtue

Feel free to drop me any comments or books reviews here:
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Books can also be purchased on Amazon and Kindle.

  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 (http://www.cr.nps.gov/history/online_books/wamo/stones.pdf) accessed 9/28/13
  3.  The Washington Monument: A Technical History and Catalog of the Commemorative Stones p. 1 (http://www.cr.nps.gov/history/online_books/wamo/stones.pdf) 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, http://www.philadelphiabuildings.org/pab/app/ar_display.cfm/22495, accessed 9/27/2013.
  7. How Monument Cemetery was Destroyed, The Cemetery Traveler – by Ed Snyder, http://thecemeterytraveler.blogspot.com/2011/05/how-monument-cemetery-was-destroyed.html 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 http://chicagoscots.blogspot.com/2011/04/andrew-doig-john-struthers-george.html
  11. Biography from the American Architects and Buildings database, http://www.philadelphiabuildings.org/pab/app/ar_display.cfm/22755, accessed 9/28/2013.
  12. The Washington Monument: A Technical History and Catalog of the Commemorative Stones p. 124 (http://www.cr.nps.gov/history/online_books/wamo/stones.pdf) accessed 10/28/13
  13. The Voice of Freemasonry, Grand Lodge, F.&.A.M., of the District of Columbia, Spring 1997

Modern Masonry

21 September 2013 1 comment

The Modern Masonic Family in Pennsylvania

Image

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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The Friend to Friend Masonic Memorial Rededication Roadtrip

The Friend to Friend Masonic Memorial Rededication Roadtrip
20 Year Anniversary Rededication at the Gettysburg Cemetery

05_27_13_rededication (94)

The Friend to Friend Masonic Memorial in gettysburg

Because this is a personal blog I will from time to time stray from strictly Masonic education and move into personal experience.  While not trying to get too far away education, my recent experience traveling to Gettysburg was both enlightening and educational.

Not everything was Masonic, as I will explain further, but it was all very cool.

Being a pretty big history buff, anything that contains any shred of American History is usually on the top of my list of things I want to learn more about.  When you add in Freemasonry to the above it takes my level of interest off the chart.

The 20th Anniversary Rededication Ceremony of the Friend to Friend Masonic Memorial gave me an excuse to put everything I love into one day and hit the road with some friends and brothers.   I couldn’t have had better company.  Three likeminded history buff Freemasons in one car made for a great day.

McConnellsburg Mt. Zion Masonic Lodge

McConnellsburg Mt. Zion Masonic Lodge

Two of us are from Bedford County, so naturally we picked Historic Lincoln Highway as the most direct Route to Gettysburg.  Coming through Fulton County into McConnellsburg where we met up with our friend, we stopped at Mt. Zion Lodge No. 774 to carpool.  We also experienced our first Civil War site of the day.

While not Masonic, the “Confederate Dead” graves and historical marker sits in McConneslburg on Rt. 16, Buchanan Trail (39°55’26.31″N  77°59’1.73″W).  This is the resting place of two Confederate Soldiers who were killed in a Skirmish a month before the Battle of Gettysburg.

Confederate Dead

Historical Marker at the Confederate Dead location in McConnellsburg

As the story goes, the men of the 1st New York (Lincoln) Calvary led by Capt. Abram Johns arrived in McConnelsburg about a month before the battle of Gettysburg.  Also in McConnellsburg was an unarmed militia cavalry out of Huntingdon led by H. M. Morrow.  Jones who sent a picket detail east to watch for any Confederates, was conversing with Marrow when the detail galloped back into town giving the news of the approaching confederates.  To this, Jones made the decision to fight.  You can read about the entire skirmish here, but to make this long story short, quite a saber battle ensued, while perusing retreating confederates, two were killed just north of town, and Jones’ men were able to capture a few rebels who were marched them out of McConnellsburg  to Bloody Run (Modern Everett.)

Confederate Dead

The final resting place of 2 confederate soldiers in McConnellsburg.

The Confederate soldiers were William B. Moore and Thomas Shelton.  They were taken into town, prepared for burial and returned to the place near where they fell to be interred.  Later the same day a mass of confederate soldiers arrived back in McConnellsburg were a door to door search was conducted for weapons before they headed east back over the mountain. 8

Try as I might, I could not force a Masonic connection here, although I am very open to someone else trying.  I couldn’t find a record of these two CSA soldiers in any Masonic context, nor of that of Abram Jones.  As a side note, I did find he is buried in Los Angeles CA, which I found pretty weird.  I am looking into this more.

Leaving McConnellsburg, we drove a short distance to Chambersburg, PA.  For anyone who has not been through this town, do yourself a favor and put this on your list.  The Masonic lodge in Chambersburg is not only the oldest Masonic building in PA, (built in 1823 as a Masonic Hall and still used as such) it is also one of the oldest buildings in the city, as it was spared from the destruction of the Confederates in 1864.

About a year after the Battle of Gettysburg, Confederate Gen. John McCausland led troops to the city where he demanded a ransom of$ 100,000.00 in gold from the merchants and citizens.  This was in supposed retaliation of federal destruction to private property in the Shenandoah Valley.5   When the merchants refused to pay he ordered the city to be raised. The destruction consumed nearly 550 houses and left roughly 2,000 residents homeless.

Chambersburg Masonic Lodge

Chambersburg Masonic Lodge: Spared from destruction during the confederate razing of the city in 1864.

As the legend goes, a “high ranking” Confederate officer spotted the building and recognized its significance.  Supposedly he confirmed with the neighbors that it was, in fact, the Masonic Hall.  Because of this, the building (or entire block depending on which story you heard) had guards placed around it sparing it from destruction. 6

While this is a very romantic story, unfortunately none of this can be 100% authenticated.  What we do know is that most of the city was burned and that this particular block went pretty much untouched.  Local legion and folklore can be wonderful things, but unfortunately without concrete proof we may never know the entire story or the exact circumstances in which the Masonic Hall was spared.   With that said, I believe it probably happened exactly like the legend states.

Oddly enough, the 1864 burning of Chambersburg wasn’t the first, or the second time, that this city was occupied by the Confederates.  One year earlier, leading up to the battle of Gettysburg, a Virginia Cavalry brigade, under Brig. General Albert G. Jenkins occupied the town and burned several warehouses and the Cumberland Valley Railroad structures and bridge.  Around the same time, much of the Army of Northern Virginia past through this area heading to Carlisle and Gettysburg.  General Lee even headquartered at a Farm near town.

Prior to this, in October of 1862, Confederate Maj. General J.E.B. Stuart raided the city with 1800 cavalrymen.  They caused about $250,000 dollars in damage and made off with guns and horses.  They failed at their main goal of burning the railroad bridge across the Conococheague Creek at Scotland, five miles north of town.  This they accomplished the following year.

Thadeus Stevens Blacksmith Shop

Thadeus Stevens Blacksmith Shop along Rt. 30 near Caledonia State Park.

From here we continued on the Lincoln Highway toward Gettysburg.  By chance we came upon another site that has a semi-Masonic, but not really at all, significance.  This was the blacksmith shop of Thadeus Stevens.  His shop sit directly along the Lincoln Highway near Caledonia State Park (39°54’23.77″N  77°28’44.21″W)

As many of you know, Thadeus Stevens was a Pennsylvania Representative who led many charges for civil rights and abolition of slavery in general. Stevens changed his party  affiliation quite a bit being a Federalist, Anti-Mason, Whig, and Republican at different times, however, we, as Freemasons,  tend to remember him as being perhaps one of the most ardent anti-Masons during the Ant-Masonic movement.

Folklore and myth claims that Stevens was rejected from a lodge in Gettysburg, which could have added to his Anti-Masonic attitude.   To help clear this up, in fact, there is no record of Thaddeus Stevens petitioning a lodge in Gettysburg.   There has only ever been one Masonic Lodge in Gettysburg.  This lodge was warranted as Good Samaritan Lodge No. 200 in 1825, just before the Morgan Affair and anti-Masonic movement that swept the United States.  Lodge No. 200 was broke up in 1832 as a result of the movement.  It would be dark until 1859 when it was re-organized as Lodge No. 336.

In 1887, a man by the name of Joshua L. Lyte wrote a letter published in the Masonic Voice Review laying out proof based on primary sources and lodge minutes that there was never a record of Stevens petitioning Gettysburg Lodge.  Rather than re-write his entire letter here and make this longer than it needs to be you can either take my word for it, or read the actual letter here.7

Outside of Good samaritan Lodge No. 336 in Gettysburg

Outside of Good Samaritan Lodge No. 336 in Gettysburg. The location of this well known tourist statue is peculiar to me.

Moving on from this short stop we approached Gettysburg, the highlight of the day.  When we first got into Gettysburg we were ahead of schedule so we just drove to the downtown square.  Conveniently, Good Samaritan Lodge No. 336  is located directly in the heart of town.  The door was open, so we went in.  On site preparing for the ceremony were several members of Good Sam lodge including Worshipful Master Matthew P. Terpstra who gave us a brief peek around the lodge room.  Great guys! 9 Driving to the cemetery was the impressive site of hundreds of Masons in aprons walking on the street.  For a block there was a parade of aprons, collars, jewels, and suits all moving toward the center piece of the Friend to Friend Monument.

At the Friend to Friend Monument

The three of us at the Friend to Friend Monument.

The monument, which is impressive in itself, was made even grander by being surrounded by every body of Freemasonry you can think of.

The Friend to Friend monument was created 20 year ago to commemorate the battlefield meeting of Confederate General, Bro. Lewis Armistead and Union Army Captain Bro. Henry H. Bingham.  Where, as the story goes, Bingham assisted the mortally wounded Armistead near the high water mark.  Both Bingham and Armistead were members of the craft.  It is also a fact that Bingham did receive some of Armistead’s personal effects.  While there is not really any proof that the motives were Masonic in nature, it did represent a meeting in which two brothers from opposite sides of the field met and demonstrated compassion.

Image

Grand Master Jay Smith and Past Grand Master Edward Henry Fowler, Jr.

The rededication was complete with a moving presentation by the Grand Lodge officers and Grand Master Jay Smith.  There was present many Past Grand Masters including Edward Henry Fowler, Jr. who was Grand Master 20 years ago at the original dedication.

This is not the only Masonicly significant monument in Gettysburg. On the contrary, one of the larger and arguably more nationally important monuments at Gettysburg, the Soldiers National Monument, has a historic Masonic connection.

On July 04, 1865 a cornerstone ceremony for the Soldiers National Monument in Gettysburg took place.  In office at the time of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania was Grand Master Lucius H. Scott. According to the 1865 minutes of the Grand Lodge he states:

“Among the official duties I have been called to discharge during the past Masonic year, none have appeared to me more important so far as the dignity and honor of the Grand Lodge is concerned, than that of laying the corner stone of the Soldiers National Monument at Gettysburg.”1

Grand Master Scott further explained that one month prior to this event he received a letter from David Wills, president of the Soldiers National Cemetery, informing him that invitations to this event were sent to Masonic lodges in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and DC.  Wills explained that the Grand Master of DC wrote back asking if the fraternity was to perform the cornerstone ceremony, and if so, which Grand Jurisdiction would awarded the honor.  To this, Wills explains that he conferred with a local Pennsylvania lodge who suggested their desire to have their own Grand Lodge perform the ceremony.  With this, the invitation was extended to the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania.2

To read through Grand Master Scott’s lengthy report on this historic event, it can be easily assumed that he knew of the significant and historic importance of this event.  He even offers and apology for the lengthy written segment in the minutes.

Image

Standing by the Soldiers National Monument.

While arrangements were made for President and Brother Andrew Johnson to be present for the ceremony, he was unfortunately unable to attend due to illness.  He sent in his place the Marshal of the District of Columbia, Judge Gooding who delivered a personal letter from him during the ceremony.3 President Johnson was a southerner from Tennessee who belonged to Greenville Lodge No. 119.4

This was perhaps one of the most educational days I have had in a long time.  I am glad to have witnessed the rededication ceremony and look forward to my future trips to Gettysburg.

  1. Minutes of the Right Worshipful Grand Lodge of the Most Ancient and Honorable Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons of Pennsylvania and Masonic Jurisdictions Thereunto Belonging. Volume XI, 1865-1874, Page 32.  (Available Online Here)
  2. Minutes of the Right Worshipful Grand Lodge of the Most Ancient and Honorable Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons of Pennsylvania and Masonic Jurisdictions Thereunto Belonging. Volume XI, 1865-1874, Page 32-33.  (Available Online Here)
  3. The Soldier’s National Cemetery at Gettysburg, John Russell Bartlett, page 63-64 (Available Online Here)
  4. Encyclopedia of Freemasonry, Albert G. Mackey and Harry LeRoy, Volume 2, 1909, Page 645 (Available Online Here)
  5. Burning of Chambersburg Historical Marker, Accessed 5/28/2013, http://explorepahistory.com/hmarker.php?markerId=1-A-202
  6. George Washington Lodge #143, History, Accessed 5/28/2013, http://gw143.org/about-our-lodge/history/
  7. The Masonic Voice Review, Volumes 66-68, 1887,Page 147, Available on Google Books, Accessed 5/28/2013
  8. Confederate Dead [McConnellsburg] Historical Marker, Explore History, Accessed 5/29/2013 (Available online here)
  9. Gettysburg, Good Samaritan Lodge No. 336: http://www.gettysburgmasonicbodies.embarqspace.com/

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Peter Guibert’s Trek

Marching in Bedford

Mr. Ray Zimmerman, Mr. Bill Mock, and Bro. Jim Smith pass through Downtown Bedford today. Ray and Jim will walk the entire 200 mile length from Pittsburgh to Gettysburg.

On June 05, 2013 I was fortunate enough to meet up with Bro. Jim Smith and Bro. Duane Myers, PM, who are on a 200 mile trek from Pittsburgh to Gettysburg to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the battle of Gettysburg.  Bro. Jim is recreating a trek that started 100 years ago on May 26, 1913.

100 years ago Peter Guibert, a former drummer boy for the 74th Pennsylvania Infantry during the battle of Gettysburg, started out marching from Allegheny City Hall near Pittsburgh on his way to Gettysburg to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the great battle.

The modern 200 mile journey on foot is being re-created by retired mechanical engineer, Bro. Jim Smith, 70, of Greensburg, who is beating the same drum all the way, stopping at various locations along the route.  Today he passed through downtown Bedford, PA.  Upon hearing this I grabbed my camera and ran across town to catch up with Jim and his crew.

Saluting the colors

Stopping at every single American Flag to salute the colors.

Jim is accompanied by Mr. Ray Zimmerman who is walking with him on the journey.  When I caught up to them they were also joined by local historical society member Bill Mock. This was truly an amazing site to see as they stopped at every single American flag hanging on every single porch to salute the colors before starting the roll again on the drum.   In a truck traveling behind them was Bro. Duane Myers, PM and Mr. Dick Mizikar.

Bros. Smith and Myers are members of the Ambrust Veterans Association.  According to their business card they do Military Funerals, Educational Seminars, and School Programs.

Passing through Downtown Bedford

Bros. Duane Myers, PM (left) Adam T. Osman, PM (center) and Jim Smith (Right) in Downtown Bedford.

Jim and Ray are dressed in quasi-period uniforms as they marched through downtown.  Bro. Jim did tell me that they will change to highway clothing, which are florescent yellow/green t-shirts,  as they get to busier sections of road. Jim is using Guiberts actual drum from 1913. Smith said he came by the drum in the early 1980s from a woman named Betty Mower, who had it her attic and almost threw it away given its decrepit condition at the time. Smith said it was so dirty that his wife forbade him to bring it into their house.

There are limited records of the actual trek that took place in 1913, but papers in Gettysburg and Chambersburg reported the arrival of Guibert in their towns.   It is not proven that the original journey took the marchers through Bedford, but it could be likely as the new Lincoln Highway was a main travel route.

Information found online says Peter Guibert who was born in January of 1844. Guibert signed up with the Union Army in Pittsburgh and attached to the 74th Pennsylvania Infantry. He later served with the 77th Pennsylvania until 1865. Guibert was 89 when he died Dec. 7, 1933.

A simple Google search will give you many newspaper reports and articles on this Journey.  If you are lucky enough to live along the Lincoln Highway you too may see Jim Smith and his crew over the next few weeks.

More info on Jims Trek can be found at the following links:

http://peterguiberttrek.com/

http://peterguiberttrek.webs.com/

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Peter-Guibert-TREK-100th-Anniversary-Reprise-2013/439536006125611

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A Mason at Sight – The Rare Special Event with Common Misconceptions

The Following is a report I submitted to the Pennsylvania Academy of Masonic Knowledge.  Again, I’ve tried to reference everything found during my research for accuracy. If you find anything that needs attention please let me know.

A Mason at Sight
The Rare Special Event with Common Misconceptions

A phrase that seems to appear from time to time is “Mason at Sight.”  For many Masons and non-Masons alike this conjures up images of the Grand Master waving his hand like a wizard and saying something along the lines of, “ABRA KA-DABRA…IT IS DONE.”   The result being an ordinary man is instantly titled Master Mason without any effort or knowledge of the craft.

There is no shortage of misinformation out there on the process of being made a Mason at sight.  The term itself implies that with one pen stroke the Grand Master takes a man and declares him a Freemason.  This could not be further from the truth.

In fact, when a Grand Master makes a Mason at sight, it is not too extremely different from our widely accepted one day classes.  Of course there are certain differences that exist between jurisdictions, but for the most part being made a Mason at sight is not as much of a free pass that many people claim.

The actual process of making a Mason at sight is common but rare.  As of 2011, in Pennsylvania, this has only happened 91 times since 1842.1  Often times these special events are very large ceremonies attended by many members to witness the degree work in its entirety as was the case in 1998 when three Pennsylvania State Police officers were raised to the Sublime degree of a Master Mason by the Pennsylvania State Police Masonic Degree Team.2

With the Grand Masters approval, a Mason at sight event can be more than just degree work by any ordinary members.  Many times special degree teams made up of men from specific lines of work make it not only a special event for the candidates involved, but also displays the various special interest degree teams recognized by the Grand Jurisdiction of Pennsylvania.  As mentioned above the Pennsylvania State Police Masonic Degree team was just one of the various degree teams.  Pennsylvania also hosts the Pennsylvania Masonic Emergency Services Degree Team which took part in a similar event in 2002 when two men of the emergency services profession were made Masons at sight.

In Pennsylvania, the Grand Master has the authority as the chief Masonic official in the Jurisdiction to make a man a Mason without the traditional process of petitioning a lodge, submitting to an investigation of his background, or awaiting the outcome of a lodge vote.  In addition, the candidate does not have to wait a month in between degrees. 4

Although it is becoming more common than ever for one day conferrals and mass initiations, especially in Pennsylvania, there are differences between the so called ‘One Day Classes” and being made a Mason at sight.  During an official one day class, each candidate has gone through the exact preparation as a traditional candidate.  He has filed a petition seeking the prayer of his petition to be granted.  The petition was signed by two Master Masons as recommenders.  The petition is brought before the lodge for the approval or rejection of the candidate’s prayer being granted, and then upon approval, the candidate is interviewed by a committee of three Master Masons.  Upon a report to the lodge on the candidate, the lodge votes to approve or reject the candidate for membership.   If approved, the candidate then moved through three degrees of the symbolic lodge either in a traditional format of one degree at a time, or in a one day event receiving all three degrees one after the other.

When a man is made a Mason at sight, he still takes the degree work the same as any candidate would.  The differences lie in the fact that the Grand Master can vouch for the character of the man in question, and therefore forgo the petition, ballot, and interview process.  The candidate still takes his full degree work, complete with charges and investiture.  5

Typically a Mason at sight is someone of high regard or otherwise a pillar of society.  Just a few noted men who have become Masons at sight in Pennsylvania include Samuel W. Pennypacker (1897), Governor of Pennsylvania; John Wanamaker (1898), Merchant; Andrew and Richard Mellon (1928), Financiers; Milton S. Eisenhower (1951), brother of President Dwight Eisenhower; George M. Leader (1955), Governor of Pennsylvania; Fitz Eugene Dixon, Jr. (1976), Philanthropist; and Col. Paul J. Evanko (1999), Pennsylvania State Police Commissioner.6

The record for most Masons made at sight by a Pennsylvania Grand Master is nine.  It is held by Grand Master Benjamin Page who was in office from 1932 -1933.He is followed by William A. Carpenter with 7 between 1984 and 1985.  Tied for third are Grand Masters William J. Kelley (1897-1898) and J. Wilson Smith (1928-1929) each with 5.7

The earliest accounts, according to Mackey’s Encyclopedia, include an instance of Lord Lovell making the Duke of Lorraine, who later became Emperor of Germany, a Mason at sight in 1731.  Mackey also tells us that the Duke of Gloucester was made a Mason at sight in 1766.  The Duke of Cumberland received this honor in 1767.  In 1787, in an “occasional Lodge”  the Prince of Wales was made a Mason at sight.   The term “occasional lodge” can also be called “emergency lodge” which Mackey tells us is; “specially convened by him (The Grand Master), and consisting of such Master Masons as he may call together for that purpose only; the Lodge ceasing to exist as soon as the initiation, passing, or raising has been accomplished, and the Brethren have been dismissed by the Grand Master.”8

Although the practice of making Masons at sight had been recorded in some form or another as early as 1731, it did not become officially authorized in Pennsylvania until 1825.   In this year an addition of the “Ahiman Rezon” was printed that listed one of the Grand Masters powers; “To cause masons to be made in his presence, at any time; and at any place, a lodge being opened by him for that purpose.”9

As of 1995, the authority was expanded to read as; “To cause Masons to be made in his presence, at any time and at any place, a Lodge being opened by him for that purpose; To grant, and authorize to be granted, Dispensations for making Masons, for constituting Lodges, for laying Cornerstones, for forming Masonic processions, and for the burial of unaffiliated Master Masons; Adopted December 6, 199510

It is also worth noting that a man made a Mason at sight still has to petition an individual lodge for acceptance.  So while a few steps in the process have been relaxed with the approval, supervision, and direction of the Grand Master, these men still need to ballot a lodge for membership.  Unlike the one day classes when a man is made a member of a lodge while typically sitting beside many men who are becoming members of different lodges, Masons at sight, many times, are just made Masons of that particular jurisdiction.  A lodge still has to accept his prayer of his petition for membership. This is similar to a membership transfer.

As stated in the current Ahiman Rezon; 19.04. “Brethren made at sight or by Dispensation do not thereby become members of the Lodge in which they are made. To become members they must apply by petition, and be duly elected, as hereinafter provided.”11

The idea that making a Mason at sight is somehow bad or negative to Freemasonry is nothing new.  Many authors have touched on this topic for years.  While it is worth noting this practice has been around for many years, some jurisdictions have claimed they forbid it, but at the same time actually performing it in practice.   One noted Masonic author, Albert G. Mackey, touched on this topic in 1874;

The prerogative of the Grand Master to make masons masons at sight, is a Landmark which is closely connected with the preceding one. There has been much misapprehension in relation to this Landmark, which misapprehension has sometimes led to a denial of its existence in jurisdictions where the Grand Master was perhaps at the very time substantially exercising the prerogative, without the slightest remark or opposition…12

The misleading title of “mason at sight” has caused many uneducated members to hold animosity towards such an action.  While it only takes a few minutes of searching online or browsing Grand Lodge records to prove otherwise, there still exist the thought that a member is somehow less a member because he was made a Mason at sight.  Indeed, there is typically discussion among brethren when referring to our Masonic presidents that often times leads to at least one person pointing out that President Taft was made a Mason at sight, and for that reason was less a real Mason and more of an honorary Mason.

In reality, not only did Taft receive the entire three degree ritual in person, but also went on to witness other men complete their Masonic journey in the Master Mason degree.   When Taft received his degrees at the Scottish Rite Cathedral in Ohio in 1909, the Grand Lodge of Ohio had already been performing the Mason at Sight ritual for some time. 13

So often was the notion of “Mason at Sight” misunderstood with a negative connotation that from time to time some Grand Masters would issue statements on such proceedings.  As we can read from Maryland Grand Master Thomas J. Shryock in 1897;

By virtue of the authority in me vested as your Grand Master, I convened an Emergency Lodge, and made, “at sight,” His Excellency, Lloyd Lowdes, Governor of Maryland, a Mason.  An erroneous idea has arisen in the minds of many of the fraternity as to the ceremony if making a Mason ‘at sight,’ and to erase this wrong, and perhaps damaging impression, I deem it but proper to sat that, in the making of a mason ‘at sight,’ by the Grand Master, the candidate is required to pass through all the forms and ceremonies incident to the conferring of the Three Degrees, in the same manner that an applicant does in applying to a subordinate lodge.  The impression of some that the Grand Master, by virtue of his authority, touches a man on the shoulder and creates him a mason is entirely erroneous and I know that this impression does exist to a certain extent.  I think it proper to here state, so the craft may understand it throughout our Jurisdiction, that such is not the case.  The making of a Mason ‘at sight,’ is one of the landmarks of the Fraternity, the prerogative of the grand Master, and I have on two occasions exersized that prerogative, as much for the purpose of not allowing it to become dormant as for any other reason.”14

One thing to take from the above clarification made by Grand Master Shryock is that it would seem a defense added to the use of such a ceremony would be the claim that it must be used in order for it to continuously be understood.  While to some that may seem like a fancy way of politicking the situation, it is very true.  As we see too often in lodges as men move though the chairs, become Master, and move on to bigger and better things, many times the members holding the reins are only educated in what they have personally seen or took part in.  Any ritual, extra floor work, or otherwise seldom used ceremony that is not constantly utilized it often lost to the next generation of men.  For proof of this, I can attest with my own personal knowledge that when Grand Lodge officially allowed stated meetings to be opened and closed in the short way; 15 what at first seemed like a harmless shortcut became a matter of many new members not seeing the long form traditional opening or closing for up to 2 years.  These same men who had never seen the work performed were clueless when asked to do it in ritual.  As easy as it is for some to say, “Attend school of instruction.”  The reality is, if you don’t use it, you lose it.

What is also important to remember is that each Jurisdiction is subject to no one except the Grand Master of their own Jurisdiction.   While this practice has been seen as controversial, it is also widely practiced across the world each year.  In fact, our own “One Day Class” events that are held by dispensation of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania in which large numbers of men are made Masons in a one day auditorium type event are very similar in practice.

It is worth noting that those who decry the practice of making Masons at sight, but seem to acknowledge the practice of one day classes are obviously blindly ignorant to what exactly this practice is.  In fact, the one day class ritual could be seen as more detrimental to the Craft, as each candidate is not led individually through the degree, but rather sits among many other men viewing it from a chair.

The growing popularity of one day Masonic classes is not in itself met without controversy.  One does not have to ask around for very long before they realize that there stands a silent but constant negative aura of feelings between some members of the fraternity.  While there is never an official designation of who is or is not a traditional candidate, one day Masons do face scrutiny from time to time.

The rising popularity of one day events has paved the way for a more general acceptance of this practice, although it is up for debate as to its effectiveness on productive membership.  There are arguments to be made on both sides of the aisle.

What is clear however is that there is no shortage of highly dedicated men claiming the ranks of Past Master or other officers of the lodge who are products of the one day classes.  It would seem that no matter how a man is made a Mason, if he, individually, chooses to pursue the path to Masonic enlightenment he will achieve his goals, even with negative and unnecessary hurdles in his way.

Another hurdle that appears from time to time is cross Jurisdiction recognition.  As is the case in any Grand Jurisdiction, each Grand Master technically answers to no person outside his Jurisdiction.  While many states vary slightly in certain aspects of ritual, practice, or work, for the most part they all maintain the same landmarks and mutual respect.  This allows each Grand Master to govern his Jurisdiction accordingly while maintaining harmony and recognition of other Jurisdictions.  On occasion, a Grand Master may perform a dispensation that goes contrary to what most other Grand Masters would feel is acceptable.

There is a long-standing legend among many Prince Hall Masons that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was made a Mason at sight posthumously in 1999 in Georgia.  As is typical online, once this is posted, or reposted, emotions run wild with men from both sides both in support and adamantly against this notion.   As it turns out, this legend is false.  Dr. King was never made a Mason in life, nor posthumously.  Not to mention the shear notion of this action would go contrary to the landmarks of the fraternity.

Although this notion may seem far fetch and unlikely, there is a very large population that continues to perpetrate this myth.  This does raise an interesting question though.  What if a grand Master were to posthumously declare a man a Mason at sight?  For starters, based on the official process of making a Mason at sight, this would be impossible, as a dead man cannot go through degree work.   In the highly hypothetical and unlikely situation that a Grand Master just decided to declare a man a Mason after death without the ceremony what could happen?   This is where the “cross Jurisdiction recognition” comes in.

Each Grand Jurisdiction is subject to no one but their own Grand Master in that jurisdiction.  If any Grand Master in any jurisdiction were to declare a man a Mason posthumously it would not be subject to the debate of any other authority but its own. While this may cause massive ripples in the harmony of the order among other Jurisdiction, the fact is, no other Jurisdiction could stop it from happening.   This sort of action would no doubt cause serious recognition repercussions from other Grand Jurisdictions.

Because many other Grand Jurisdictions carry mutual recognition, a Mason made at sight in one state would stand to be a Mason in another as long as each Grand Jurisdiction recognized each other. In that line of thought, any other Grand Jurisdiction that shares recognition with the Jurisdiction in question would also recognize the dead man as a brother.

In Pennsylvania there is limited (although expanding) Prince Hall recognition. If King or any other man were made a Mason posthumously by the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Georgia it still would not mean all men would recognize him as a brother. In fact, at the current time Prince Hall Masons of Georgia are not recognized by the Pennsylvania Grand Lodge, and so, all so-called “regular” members in lodges across Pennsylvania would be subject to the Jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania and would not recognize Dr. King as a Freemason.

There is no doubt that King carried many outstanding characteristics of a qualified candidate for Freemasonry.  In fact his father and Grand Father were both Prince Hall Masons.   To put this myth to bed though, King was never made a Freemason.  16

To sum it all up; it is safe to say that the act of “Making a Mason at Sight” is justified, regulated, and rightfully preformed.  The candidates are still given degrees, and the lessons are being told to each person, individually.   The Grand Masters who chose to perform this act are neither breaking any landmark nor bending any law of Freemasonry.  This is a practice that has been documented for well over 200 years and has not brought about the absolute destruction of the craft.  Hopefully, with a little education, this practice can lose the negative stigma that it has carried for many years.   We all can have an opinion on the matter.  While it may be justified to disagree with the practice, it is not justified to accuse any Grand Master of malfeasance.

It would wise for us to recognize that no matter how a man is made a Mason, he is only as good of a Mason as he makes himself.  Masons at sight and one day class Masons are every bit a member as the next guy.  These men have every opportunity, right, and privilege that their lodges offer every member.  To degrade their character or membership based on ignorance of Masonic law or differing opinion on the manner in which they were made a Mason would be truly un-masonic.  We are a brotherhood.  We are all with our own strengths and weaknesses.

Bibliography

  1. Pennsylvania Freemason Magazine, Volume LVIII, May 2011, Number 2, page 15.
  2. Pennsylvania Freemason Magazine, Volume XLV, November 1998, Number  4
  3. Pennsylvania Freemason Magazine, Volume XLIX, February 2002, Number  1
  4. Pennsylvania Freemason Magazine, August 1987
  5. National Heritage Museum, Making a Mason at Sight, the Case of President-elect Taft. http://nationalheritagemuseum.typepad.com/library_and_archives/william-h-taft/
  6. The Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, newly Made Masons at Site, 2001. http://www.pagrandlodge.org/events/masonsatsite2001/index.html
  7. Pennsylvania Freemason Magazine, August 1987
  8. Making a Mason at Sight, Bro. Wildey E. Atchison, Colorado, The Builder, February 1916 http://www.masonicdictionary.com/sight.html
  9. Pennsylvania Freemason Magazine, August 1987
  10. Ahiman Rezon; 19.04
  11. Ahiman Rezon; 12.03
  12. An Encyclopedia of Freemasonry and its Kindred Sciences, Moss and Co., 1874, page 441.
  13. The American Tyler-Keystone, decoted to Freemasonry and Its Concerdant Other, Volume 24, Page 55, Craft Movement in Michigan.
  14. Proceedings of the Grand Lodge of Ancient, Free, & Accepted Masons of Canada, 1896, page XXXVII
  15. Renaissance as to Grand Lodge, PA Freemason Magazine, January 2010, page 15, (Opening and Closing Meetings) http://www.pagrandlodge.org/freemason/0110/page15.html
  16. The Texas Prince Hall Freemason, Winter 2001, Page 59-62, Was MLK Jr. a Mason?

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