So, this was an innovation, one which, as is typical of these things, become de riguer, standard, and somehow, written in stone (in the United States, think of Income Taxes, which were supposed to be a temporary emergency measure...) The point of this blog, therefore, is to examine whether the time has come to return to Masonic tradition, and the reasons we should, or should not do so.
One of the innovations to masonry that, in my opinion, is causing the most trouble for the craft, is the "simplification" of freemasonry. We are taught in every degree that freemasonry is a progressive science, taught by degrees. The purpose of the three degrees is to confer upon the candidate certain teachings, opening his heart and spirit to make him a better man. Yet, for some reason, we RUSH through the degrees, as if there is nothing to be learned and internalized.
This is a typical American failing... we spend too much time in front of the television, where all the world's problems can be solved between the commercials and in under an hour. The members of my grand lodge even voted in 1996 and ammended in 1997 to allow the candidates to return the proficiency in the first and second degree in a "short" form... memorizing only the obligation and the means and modes of recognition rather than the traditional two minute (!!) memorized two part catechism between the candidate and his coach.
Part of the reason for the rush, however, is that the candidate cannot participate in the business of the lodge, he is excluded from one part of the lodge because we only do business in the third degree. If we did business in the first degree, there would be no need for a mad rush from EA to MM, a process that is usually completed in 90 (!!) days from the time a candidate is balloted upon.
How can we look people in the eye and claim we are going to teach them great and serious truths in less than one third the time it takes to bake a baby? And lets not EVEN get into the concept that is, fortunately falling from use, the aberration called “All the Way in A Day”. How on earth can you form a mason in 8 hours?
This must all seem like a foreign concept to our worldwide brethren, who, by and large, conduct business in the first degree, and only open in other degrees, or all UP to confer degrees.
It is my opinion that it is time, and actually well PAST time for the Grand Lodges to seriously consider, not a new tradition, but of returning to the true tradition of working in the first degree except for the conferral of higher degrees and Masonic education appropriate to a specific degrees.
Its time to lengthen the time between one degree to another from, in some cases, ONE DAY, to a minimum of 90 days. Give the candidate time to learn to BE a mason, to take in the wise and serious truths being presented to him, to take the time to actually become a Mason.
That’s this mason’s opinion. As always, I welcome yours.
Below is some information from Paul Bessel on the 21 Grand Lodges that already have chosen to return to the true tradition of working in the first degree.
Grand Lodges Where Business Can Now be Done on the First Degree
as of Connecticut Apr. 1, 1987: Grand Lodge voted to allow Stateds on any degree, but only MM's vote.
- Missouri as of Sept. 27, 1994: Bylaws now says: A STATED COMMUNICATION requires that the lodges open on the first, second and third degrees.
- Washington as of June 13, 1996: Resolution said a significant number of EA's, FC's, and MM's fail to progress, if they can attend and participate in Lodge business their interest and knowledge may increase at an earlier time and they will be more likely to continue as active Masons, doing business on the 3rd degree was an innovation in the U.S. in 1843. The WM decides on which degree to open a meeting. Only MM's who have passed their proficiency can vote on certain items.
- Idaho as of Sept. 20, 1996: Idaho voted to allow lodges to open and conduct business on any degree at the discretion of the Master. There is an exception that balloting on petitions may only be done on the 3rd degree. Masons below the rank of Master Mason are not allowed a vote and may debate only at the discretion of the Worshipful Master. This action was probably taken in 1996 or 1997.
- Colorado as of January 1997.
- Kansas as of March 1997 by edict of the Grand Master
- Arizona as of June 7, 1997: Resolution said restricting attendance at stated meetings to MM's deprives EA's and FC's of fellowship and activity. Says business will be done in lodge of EA, FC, or MM, decided by the WM, but only MM's can vote and hold office.
- Nevada as of Nov. 11, 1997: Resolution states all business, except conferring of the FC and MM degrees, shall be done in a Lodge of EAs, but only MMs who are members of a lodge may vote in that Lodge. In 1998 (and again in 1999), rejected a resolution to allow the WM to conduct business meetings on any of the 3 degrees, so they must be on the EA degree, except for conferring of degrees.
- Alabama as of 1998: GL voted to allow business on any degree.
- Minnesota as of April 15-17, 1999: Resolution said present rules exclude EA's and FC's from attending stateds of lodge they have joined, while they are subject to discipline already, it is desirable to include new members as soon as possible, educational programs will be of interest to new members. Allows WM to open on any degree, but only MM's can vote.
- Oregon as of June 4, 1999: WM permitted to open Stated meetings on EA or FC degree to permit EAs and FCs to attend, without benefit of being voting members.
- Montana as of 2000, The GL of Montana began allowing all lodges to conduct business on the EA or FC degrees at the option of the WM.
as of Maryland Nov. 15, 1999: At the discretion of the Worshipful Master, a Lodge may be opened in any of the three degrees and all business except that which relates specifically to a particular degree may be transacted in the Lodge sitting in any of the three degrees. Provided, however, that only Master Masons who are members of the Lodge may cast a ballot, vote, or participate in debate on any matter coming before the Lodge or exercise any other right or privilege of membership relating to the business of the Lodge.
- New Mexico as of March 2000
- Utah - No details available
- District of Columbia as of November 4, 2000: WM may open and conduct business on any degree, but only MMs can vote or exercise other privileges of Lodge membership.
- Massachusetts, date not known Grand Lodge voted to allow Stateds on any degree, but only MM's vote.
- Vermont (Thanks Errol and Wr. O'Sullivan!!)
- Ohio (Thanks Tom)
- South Dakota (Thanks Silence Dogood)
- Texas as of 2007
Grand Lodges Where Business on the First Degree is Known to be Under Consideration
- New York
May the blessing of heaven rest upon us and all regular masons. May brotherly love prevail, and every moral and social virtue, cement us.