True Secrets of Freemasonry

Those who become Freemasons only for the sake of finding out the secret of the order, run a very great risk of growing old under the trowel without ever realizing their purpose. Yet there is a secret, but it is so inviolable that it has never been confided or whispered to anyone. Those who stop at the outward crust of things imagine that the secret consists in words, in signs, or that the main point of it is to be found only in reaching the highest degree. This is a mistaken view: the man who guesses the secret of Freemasonry, and to know it you must guess it, reaches that point only through long attendance in the lodges, through deep thinking, comparison, and deduction.

He would not trust that secret to his best friend in Freemasonry, because he is aware that if his friend has not found it out, he could not make any use of it after it had been whispered in his ear. No, he keeps his peace, and the secret remains a secret.

Giovanni Giacomo Casanova, Memoirs, Volume 2a, Paris, p. 33

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Masonic Formation

I am fortunate to be a member of Moreno Valley #804, where I am welcomed every time I show up as if I were the prodigal son... and where we greet every brother that crosses the threshold as the prodigal son returned. I mention this as, since returning from the Hot Sands of Saudi Arabia, I have been privileged to attend a number of degrees.

I mention this because since I have been gone, the master, Wr. John Cover Spear, has instituted what I think is an awesome bit of masonic education for the candidate, and I want to share it with you... because I think it is a great idea.

First, a little background. In California lodges, the installed master sits as Master in the degree work only for the third degree conferrals and stated (business) meetings. In the First Degree, the Junior Warden sits as master and confers the degree upon the candidate. In the Second Degree, the Senior Warden confers the degree upon the candidate.

In both these cases, the master is present, and usually sits as the Junior in the first and the Senior in the second, but that is not ritual, just tradition. I mention this because it will help explain what follows.

After the ceremonials of the degree are completed and the candidate is seated among the brethren, the master rises (in the first and second degrees) and asks the master for permission to meet the candidate west of the altar. As a side note, in California ritual, the altar is equidistant between the Master and Senior Warden and the Junior Warden and the North.

West of the Altar, the Master shows the candidate the step, due guard and sign, the grip, the word, and explains the various officers duties and masonic terms that are used in the degree. He does this in plain speech, in his own words, slowly, making sure he explains it to the candidate.

He does this in each degree excepting the third degree. After the third degree is conferred, he steps down from the east and makes the same type of explanations to the candidate just before closing.

You can see the light come on in the candidate's eyes as he makes this explanation and shows the candidate the things he was told in the ritual. These lessons take no more than five minutes, and have made a lasting impression on the candidate, not only of the material being presented, but in the friendliness and brotherhood in which it is offered.

We all know that the candidates are often overwhelmed with the ritual, the movements, the material they are being presented... heck, as masons, we have all been there. I still remember vividly how it felt to kneel at that altar and take my obligations, and have seen hundreds of degrees conferred since then and have seen the deer in the headlights look on most candidates.

Wr. Cover Spear demonstrates a care, concern, and brotherly love for the candidates, while imparting information all candidates have questions about after the degree. More, in doing so, he sets the tone for the lodge, for the degrees, and for the brotherly relationship between us all.

I was impressed when I first saw Wr. Cover Spear first do this, and since then, I have been more impressed at the effect it has, not only for the candidate, but for the lodge. I am a member of the Masonic Formation Task Force... and I am proud to say that Wr. Cover Spear doesn't just confer degrees in the lodge, he forms masons. Its awesome to be a part of that... even a small part on the right hand of the Senior Warden...
May the blessing of heaven rest upon us and all regular masons. May brotherly love prevail, and every moral and social virtue, cement us.


Widow's Son said...

The tradition of someone meeting the newly raised brother west of the altar to explain the obligations just taken has long been a part of the experience in my Georgia lodge. And I agree, it's a good idea, something the new brother needs to hear.

That's where, when the speaker gets to the part about clandestine lodges, he says, "By clandestine lodges we mean the black lodges."

Nice tradition, huh? I could have gone without hearing that part. As I've written elsewhere, my first thought was, "Oh, ____. Have I just joined the Klan?"

Widow's Son

Theron Dunn said...

Br. Widow's Son;

NOTHING in California ritual, teachings, tenets, practices would even ALLOW such a statement, no less have it even considered. We do not speak of clandestine lodges, at all. Frankly, most California masons have no truck with, knowledge of, or interest in Clandestine Lodges.

It is certainly not an issue most of us ever even give a thought to.

And I am sorry that no one in your lodge, or Georgia lodges, does not stand up and object to that characterization... not the candidate, but a member of the lodge.

As for my lodge, we are only talking about general items relative to the degree just conferred. THAT is a nice tradition.

Anonymous said...


The WM sitting only for MM conferrals and the stated is more of a widespread custom in CA than a rule. The WM can sit for ANY degree if he so chooses and prefers. I took that right many times--especially when the other chairs needed to perform in positions they took most of the year to learn. Why put them in a place where they'll constantly fumble?


Tubal Cain said...

Wonderful words.
sniff..... the image you portray brings tears to my eyes...
what a sight it must be to see a candidate get education west of the alter.

Now that is different, I guess?

Unless education and degree work is serious to the Lodge, then that is a normal masonic ritual, no?

Thanks for sharing that beautiful scene for the brother not as fortunate as you and I.

Theron Dunn said...


The WM CAN sit as master in any degree, of course. He IS the master of the lodge. In fact, he can NOT sit as master for any degree or even stated meeting, if that is how he chooses to run his lodge. I have seen masters who allow the Senior Warden to run stated meetings while he sits the sidelines or another office.

No one, in my district anyway, is allowed to sit as master unless he has first proven to the Inspector or officer's coach that he can actually do the ritual work. So no man who would fumble is placed in the east.

But you are quite correct. It has been my experience however, that the master of the lodge wants to get his officers sitting advanced chairs no later than about March.

Galen Dean said...

Bro. Dunn,

I have also done something similar in my Lodge, whereby after the 1st degree is completed, I do a Sr. Deacon's walkabout. I meet the candidate west of the alter and go through the same thing as you described. Sometimes, I do all the talking, other times, I've taken the candidate to each station and the officer stands and explains his duties.

I also found out that it is not permitted to do this while the Lodge is at labor on a degree, but must be at refreshment.

In fact, for Public Schools Night or a general public info night, I have given a modified presentation of the same nature to explain what I can about the Lodge room, Masonry in general and any other questions.

Anonymous said...

We do perform that in Georgia lodges, and it is good that you posted that because some states probably don't do that, and it is a great idea, and as for Widow's Son comment about racial tension in Georgia, unfortunately it is somewhat true, but leave it to Widow's Son to take something that is simple and good natured (your blog, not the Prince Hall situation) and try to make it controversial. It's just what he does.

Widow's Son as for our State now that we are Master Masons we have to take action in our state to change the attitude about Prince Hall lodges, but that will take time. As a Mason in GA you know that, we can't change the ideas of the older more influential men in Georgia we have to love them as brothers and attempt to council new brethren the way we know but that takes participation in our lodges.
There are many men in Georgia who do not feel negatively towards black people, It is the culture that men in the south grew up in, and you are smart, you know this.
And one day things will change, but until then be active!!! Thats what we need in Georgia is more action.

Brother Theron once again nice post and Widow's son be more positive.


Tom Accuosti said...

I've seen lodges in which the JW always handles the EA, the SW the FC, etc. I don't like it.

IMO, the EA is the most important degree. While he JW might be capable of reciting the ritual, a degree ceremony is more than just the sum of the parts. A good ceremony is well coordinated, in addition to having the words memorized.

We do have a "move up" night in my lodge, in which the JW takes the EA, but it's only once a year, in the fall, when he's had a chance to get comfortable in the position and know what to do in ceremonies.

I'm not saying that our way is the right way - but I will say that too often I've seen poor degrees because the JW was only installed a month or two beforehand and hadn't prepared, or didn't get adequate support from the other officers.

Anonymous said...

Yes no one should ever take upon themselves a position which they cannot perform proficiently at, ever. But there should be more studies of the work in lodges and masonic education in lodges, so that every brother may perform his duties as he may be directed. By the time men get into the Junior Warden seat they should have had the chance to learn the work, and should know it.
And yes that is yet another very good point, Bro. Tom


Anonymous said...

By the time men get into the Junior Warden seat they should have had the chance to learn the work, and should know it.

Oh, I agree - but I'm also pragmatic. Back in the old days when you started off as a JS, you had plenty of time to learn the work. Unfortunately, nowadays it's all to common to see a brother go "from a dead level to a living Senior Deacon;" many new officers jump the first few chairs, and if they are in a lodge in which the senior officers are already shaky in ritual, then they aren't going to learn any good habits.

Anonymous said...

Amen Brother Tom,

I am personally afraid of that situation in my own case, I am a new mason, i was only raised three months ago, and even though I know most of the work fluidly and proficiently, I personally do not quite comprehend all of it. I pray that i do not skip a single seat.

But I think that I might be put in line because I practice the work with my grandfather on a regular basis, and the other brethren in my lodge know what a pleasure it would be for my Grandfather to see me serve as master (as i would), but I personally will never let any brother put me in a position that i am not qualified to perform. By the way, the reason that my Grandfather would be so proud is because he pretty much raised me while my own father couldn't because of his irresponsiblity.

Also the brethren in my lodge know that I won't stop coming to meetings because I have been raised twice in a lodge, I have participated in fundraisers and have been around the brethren of my lodge since I was about 8 years old and they are all ecstatic that I have gone through the lodge. They kidded with me many times about presenting a bill to GL so that I could become a Mason at 18 (all of this they said jokingly). It really is a great thing that I have been around these men my entire life and have all been role models and have all helped me and couseled me throughout me life and now I am grateful that I can call them brothers.

I know i kind of went on a tangent with this, but I think think all of this is really great, because so many of the men became teary eyed in all three of my degrees, because they are so proud of me and everything that have seen me do with my life.

But back to the point every brother should learn from the third degree that they shouldn't be placed in a position if they know that they are not qualified to perform the responsibilities of that position. In closing I pray that I don't skip any seats, but that I work through all of the stations in a lodge.


giovanni lombardo said...

In Italy we memorise nothing. The ceremony ritual lightly touches the symbolism.
Our newbies receive a booklet containing articles on the various symbols. They have to study it and, when they are passed - not before a year from initiation's date - they have to produce their papers so to give evidence of proficiency.

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