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, February 26, 2008

Why Is Ritual Important to Freemasonry?

First, this is not going to be an article ABOUT Masonic ritual, I do have an obligation to maintain. However, this this will examine ritual as it pertains to Freemasonry. Please, read on and let me know what you think about ritual. The next blog entry will discuss the probably source(s) of Masonic ritual.

As Always when discussing a subject of import, lets start off with a definition and progress in the examination. So, what IS a ritual:
A ritual is a set of actions, often thought to have symbolic value, the performance of which is usually prescribed by a religion or by the traditions of a community by religious or political laws because of the perceived efficacy of those actions.

A ritual may be performed at regular intervals, or on specific occasions, or at the discretion of individuals or communities. It may be performed by a single individual, by a group, or by the entire community; in arbitrary places, or in places especially reserved for it; either in public, in private, or before specific people. A ritual may be restricted to a certain subset of the community, and may enable or underscore the passage between religious or social states.

The purposes of rituals are varied; they include compliance with religious obligations or ideals, satisfaction of spiritual or emotional needs of the practitioners, strengthening of social bonds, demonstration of respect or submission, stating one's affiliation, obtaining social acceptance or approval for some event — or, sometimes, just for the pleasure of the ritual itself.

Rituals of various kinds are a feature of almost all known human societies, past or present. They include not only the various worship rites and sacraments of organized religions and cults, but also the rites of passage of certain societies, oaths of allegiance, coronations, and presidential inaugurations, marriages and funerals, school "rush" traditions and graduations, club meetings, sports events, Halloween parties and veteran parades, Christmas shopping, and more. Many activities that are ostensibly performed for concrete purposes, such as jury trials, execution of criminals, and scientific symposia, are loaded with purely symbolic actions prescribed by regulations or tradition, and thus partly ritualistic in nature. Even common actions like hand-shaking and saying hello are rituals.

In any case, an essential feature of a ritual is that the actions and their symbolism are not arbitrarily chosen by the performers, nor dictated by logic or necessity, but either are prescribed and imposed upon the performers by some external source or are inherited unconsciously from social traditions.(1)
So, it’s a set of actions though to have symbolic value that are traditional and are not arbitrarily chosen by the performers. Sounds a lot like Freemasonic ritual so far. Joseph Campbell said:
A ritual is the enactment of a myth. And through the enactment it brings to mind the implications of the life act that you are engaged in … But you don't know what you're doing unless you think about it. That's what a ritual does. It give you an occasion to realize what you're doing so that you're participating in the inevitable energy of life in its exchanges. That's what rituals are for; you do things with intention, and not just in the animal way, ravenously, without knowing what you're doing.(2)
Enactment of a myth, symbolism, imposed on the performers. Now that we have defined what ritual is, now we should begin to look at the place ritual has in Freemasonry, and what it does for the craft.

One thing that should be noted is that while ritual is the foundational means by which we form Masons from the profanes of the world, it is not the ONLY means of Masonic formation. Yet, in writing that, we must realize that it is the ritual that opens the door, and it is the ritual the effects the fundamental change in the psyche which makes a man a Mason. There are some men that have been made a Mason in a single day, and while they are good men, true brothers, it is the opinion of this author that such brothers have been robbed of a valuable and life changing experience.

Are these brothers any less Masons for not having personally experienced the ritual? No, of course not, most of them are active, wonderful brothers. None the less, the manner of their formation took away from them a fundamental awakening of the spirit which they may only achieve with difficult work and contemplation.

It is NOT the intent of this article to discuss the relative merits of one day conferrals, however, but no discussion of the importance of the ritual in the formation of a mason would be complete without at least a nod in the direction of this subject.

Ritual teaches fundamental lessons through symbols, on a subconscious level. This is a very powerful teaching tool! Masonry is something slightly different to every man, yet the fundamental truths are always there, and it is the ritual which speaks to the unconscious mind, which slips the fundamental truths of Freemasonry past the conscious defenses and makes fundamental and substantive changes.

So, why ritual? Again, quoting Joseph Campbell:
It has always been the prime function of mythology and rite to supply the symbols that carry the human spirit forward, in counteraction to those other constant human fantasies that tend to tie it back.(3)
Ritual then is the tool which speaks directly to the spirit, it is the three distinct knocks upon the portals of the spirit which cause the doors to open and spiritual eye to open and see more than the material world. By this awakening, we use the spiritual eye (reflected in our lodges as the “All Seeing Eye”) to behold Jacob’s Ladder, which rises from the material plane to the spiritual plane, and upon which we place our first foot, symbolically, in the Entered Apprentice Degree.

Without the Ritual, Freemasonry would just be another frat club, and would offer nothing more than the Moose or Elks or Eagles… material charity without a spiritual change.

Where, then, did the ritual originate? How did this ritual, by which we are so fundamentally altered, taught and spiritually nurtured, arise? That, my brothers, is the subject of my next blog.
May the blessing of heaven rest upon us and all regular masons. May brotherly love prevail, and every moral and social virtue, cement us.


  1. Wikipedia – English: 2/26/08
  2. Mythic Reflections, Thoughts on myth, spirit, and our times an interview with Joseph Campbell, by Tom Collins, One of the articles in The New Story (IC#12), Winter 1985/86, Page 52 Copyright (c)1986, 1997 by Context Institute.
  3. The Hero With A Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell, Bollingen Series XVII, Princeton University Press, 1973, pp 11

Monday, February 18, 2008

Freemasonry: Service Bureau or Initiatic Society?

I recently saw this posted on The Three Pillars:
My brothers, you are missing the point. Masonic lodges and masonically-affiliated groups, donate millions of dollars to charitable and humanitarian activities and causes. But I feel that we can do more. And I mean collectively, as an organization. Of course, any mason is free to donate his own resources and time, to any charitable cause he wishes. No one denies this, in fact, I wish all of us did more.

But, there is so much more we can do collectively, as an organization, than could ever be done individually. Each of us labors in the quarry, we all have the working tools. Our lodges are erected to God, and dedicated to the Holy Saints John. We are enjoined to improve ourselves in Masonry. But, how we improve ourselves is matter of the individual conscience, and the individual human spirit.

Many lodges around the USA, have adopted one or more charitable causes, often far removed from traditional Masonic charitable work. For example, a lodge in Kansas City supports Public television, a lodge in Seattle, supports the arts in Seattle. See:

Our lodges can:
  • Open up their lodge halls for humanitarian and non-governmental organizations like Alcoholics Anonymous.
  • Expand support to Masonic youth groups, DeMolay/Job's Daughters/Rainbow.
  • Expand support to other youth groups: Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, etc.
  • Expand support to other non-governmental organizations, like the Big Brothers/Big Sisters, both financially, and with "sweat equity".
  • Open our lodge halls to educational causes, like adult literacy, and provide financial support
  • Reach out to single-parent families, offering to mentor fatherless and 'at-risk' youth.
And the list goes on, because, sadly there is an ocean of emptiness in our society, many lives that need to be touched, by the callused hands of Masons. Are we all deaf, to the cries of pain in our midst? Are we only listening to the alarms at the door of the lodge, which are caused by our membership? Are we not all members of the human family? Do we not believe in the Brotherhood of Man, and the Fatherhood of God?

ALL mankind has a claim upon our good offices. How we answer the call, is up to us.
This begs the question:

Is Freemasonry a service organization, or is it a fraternity of good men, an initiatic society where a Peculiar System of Morality, Taught by Allegory and Illustrated by Symbols is enacted?

This is a fundamental question, and the very need to ask and answer this question demonstrates how far from our base we have come in the past fifty years! Wr. Jarrod Morales of Inland Empire Lodge in Rialto, California, perhaps put it best when he wrote:
I don't believe that Freemasonry is a charity organization, but Freemasons should do charitable deeds such as those noted above.
There is the key! Freemasons should do charitable deeds, that is one thing we are taught in the first degree. AS INDIVIDUALS. Freemasonry is not a charity, not a service bureau, and as Br. Steve Schilling of Matawan Lodge, New Jersey said:
Change the world by one personal act of kindness at a time, the world already has enough assembly line charities.
Recently, this blog noted that Freemasonry Has No Role Outside Freemasonry, echoing the senitiments expressed by the Most Worshipful Lord Northampton, Pro Grand Master, United Grand Lodge of America:
There have been suggestions that the Basic Principles should be capable of redefinition from generation to generation, although those making those suggestions seem reluctant to reveal which of the Basic Principles they wish to redefine. I would suspect that one area they would like to redefine is the prohibition of the discussion of religion and politics at Masonic meetings, and the bar on Grand Lodges or individual Freemasons making public comment on matters of religious, political or state policy when acting in their Masonic capacities.

In that context, I was rather surprised that some of you had been discussing the role of Freemasonry in a changing Europe and how Freemasonry can influence, for the common good, the social and moral development of the new Europe. The Home Grand Lodges – England, Ireland and Scotland – would respond that Freemasonry has no role outside Freemasonry and that the only influence it should be seeking is over itself and its members. We firmly believe that it is not Freemasonry but the individual who can have a positive influence on society. We see Freemasonry as an intensely personal journey of self-discovery, knowledge and personal development. We hope that the individual, during his journey, will absorb the principles and tenets of Freemasonry, so that they become a part of his nature. In that way he will make a contribution for the good of society. If the individual, imbued with the principles of Freemasonry, does not work for the good of society we should then question whether Freemasonry has fulfilled its purpose.

( SNIP )

...Freemasonry is not, and should never be allowed to develop into being, a lobby group – no matter how universal and noble the cause.

Full Text here
Freemasonry's job, if you will, is to teach good men through the powerful ritual to improve the spiritual man within, to build that spritual house, that house not made with hands. The man, thereafter, filled with the teachings of the lodge, the spiritual, internal growth engendered by the lodge, will OUTSIDE the lodge, put them into practice. The goal of freemasonry, as a lodge, as a grand lodge, is to improve the man, that the man might improve society.

It is a great misunderstanding of the purpose and teachings of the craft, though an understandable and, yes, laudable though misguided one, to consider that the fount of spiritual awakening and learning should become the agent of societal change. The brother who so considers the craft cannot be faulted for so misunderstanding the very purpose of the craft, but it is a misunderstanding none the less.

It is upon the individual brother to execute charitable deeds, as his conscience directs him. Freemasonry, the institution, teaches us to seek that on which we can best work and best agree, not to serve the community, but rather, to serve our brethren. This is not, however, to say that a lodge cannot assist the community through public works, lending or renting facilities, or even by giving money. That is not, however, the purpose of the lodge! The lodge exists to serve the brethren, as a place of meeting, a place of learning, a place for camaraderie, and a place for working.

A lodge, however, is not a place, not a spot that can be pointed to definitively. Oh, sure, a lodge meets in a building, but the building is not the LODGE. The lodge is a construct, a concept, a meeting place which can be, as we are taught, on the highest hill or the lowest vale, as the lodge is said to exist from ...East to west and from north to south, from the cloud decked canopy to the depths of the earth... A lodge is, symbolically, on the earth, any and everywhere.

The lodge is of the earth, a gateway, a place for spiritual growth. Freemasonry in gestalt, is the path upon which the mason must travel and work. It is the MASONS job to walk the path and do the labor. The final word will come from an anonymous brother:
Our charge is to be charitable when we see an opportunity for it. Not to create a bureaucratic process whereby cash is raised to create a system of providence for the chronically needy. Our charge is not about providing a sense of relief for our guilt at prospering over another, our charge is to actively watch for opportunities to be of service to our fellow man.

May the blessings of heaven rest upon us and all regular masons. May brotherly love prevail, and every moral and social virtue, cement us.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Is Masonic Ritual Timeless and Unchanging?

First of all, the obligatory disclaimer. The following is solely the opinion of the author, and does not represent any group, sub group, lodge, district, Lodge Officer, Grand Officer, Grand Lodge or other masonic entity.


Ok, now that we have that out of the way, the issue of the day is Masonic Ritual, and the question is: Is Masonic Ritual Timeless and Unchanging?
Concerning making changes in Freemasonry and/or attempting to define Freemasonry as a social club and community service organization...

In the installation of officers the Master is admonished; "You admit that it is not in the power of any man, or body of men, to make innovations in the body of Masonry."

In the anteroom lecture we are asked "Do you seriously declare upon your honor that you will cheerfully conform to all the ancient usages and established customs of the fraternity?"

We all answered that question in the affirmative, from the youngest Entered Apprentice to the Most Worshipful Grand Master.(1)

11. You admit that it is not in the power of any Man or Body of Men to make innovation in the Body of Masonry.(2)

You admit that it is not in the power of any man, or body of men, to make innovations in the body of Masonry.(3)

There are more sources, but these three will do to make the point that innovations cannot be made in the Body of Masonry. The Grand Lodge of California, and the Grand Lodge of California are in agreement, as are, well, darn near every REGULAR Grand Lodge on which I could find references. The question we need to answer before proceeding then, is RITUAL included in not making innovations?

Clearly, the answer is no. Referencing alone the information contained in "The Convention that Changed the Face of Freemasonry" we can see that the ritual was deliberately and systematically... standardized in the early 19th Century. And yet...

Ritual, from Merriam-Webster Online:
1: the established form for a ceremony; specifically : the order of words prescribed for a religious ceremony
2 a: ritual observance; specifically : a system of rites
2 b: a ceremonial act or action
2 c: an act or series of acts regularly repeated in a set precise manner(4)
There is nothing in this definition which would give one the sense that ritual cannot be changed or modified, so based on historical usage and technical definition, the ritual is NOT timeless, and CAN be changed at whim. Therein lies the challenge, for the ritual is designed to inculcate certain wise and serious teachings, to assist in the formation of a mason, to set a man on the path to inner change... to make him a better man, before g-d, his family, and his community.

It is a challenge because, any time change is undertaken without serious contemplation of all possible ramification, a slippery slope has been trod upon, with the end unknown to the authors.(5)(6)

The Grand Lodge of California is very strict about the ritual. As prescribed at the Convention noted above, the ritual is overseen by a Grand Lecturer, whose duty it is, with five Assistant Grand Lecturers, and a number of Inspectors, one assigned per district, to teach the ritual and ensure that all lodges under charter to the Grand Lodge of California, follow and use the same ritual, jot and tittle, pronunciation, gesture and floorwork. This leads to some interesting ritual work, and in the past several years, a continuous stream of minor "modifications"/"Corrections" to the ritual work.

An effort to "standardize" the ritual has also been undertaken in the past few years, so that what is done in the first degree is also done in the second and third. So if the Senior Deacon makes a 1/4 turn at one point in the ritual of the first degree, in a similar circumstance in the second he does not make a 1/2 turn, but instead ALSO makes the 1/4 turn. Minor tweeks.

This also means that if one Grand Lecturer feels that, say, Succoth should be pronounced Suk-koth, and the next feels it should be pronounced Zuk-oth, well, the inspectors make sure that all Senior Deacons know of the decision and are doing that in all future degrees.

These "corrections" are communicated through the Officer's Association all officer's are required to attend once per month, where the ritual is "exemplified" and information is disseminated. A great opportunity for masonic education is wasted in these sessions, because the Inspectors (and really, pitty the poor inspectors who have to try to make this interesting) are required to exemplify each degree at least twice per year, and assorted other materials must be presented, each year, year after year after year. So discussions of an educational nature must be set aside to focus on the ritual... but I digress.

The point here is that the Grand Lodge of California is very strict about the ritual, and what actually constitutes ritual. For instance, strangely, the color of the lights in the lesser lights is a matter of ritual, as is the wearing of white gloves by officers in other than one part of the third degree. Also, so, apparently, is the path a Deacon walks in carrying out his duties. These examples are offered not to ridicule the Grand Lecturer or the good work that he and his Assistant Grand Lecturers do, because it IS an often thankless job they face, but to offer an insight into the ritual workings in Califorina (and as I am NOT a member of any other Grand jurisdiction, I can only offer my perspective on California practices).

What we end up with, then, is ritual controlled by a small, closed group of well educated brothers with the best intentions of the craft at heart. The problem, however, is that these men, by the very nature of their work, send out these "corrections" without the input of the men who will be using them. We are all brothers and fellows, and we practice charity, of thought as well as of action, and obedience to lawful authority, but men are men, and over time what has resulted is a dual ritual, one used when the Inspector/some grand officer is looking, and the ritual that is worked in the lodge for the conferral of degrees.

The two rituals are similar, but in many cases what has developed is the knowledge that the Grand Lecturer and Assistant Grand Lecturers are ever changing, and the knowledge that the next Grand Lecturer or Assistant Grand Lecturer will change what his predecessors have changed makes the ever changing ritual more complex. Even the best intentioned brother, dedicated to inculcating every single "innovation" that comes down the pike at some point just tries to keep his head above water, listening politely when the Inspector corrects him, and then goes on doing what he knows. The body of changes just gets too large to compass and still learn the work.

California has a working, systemic, and well implemented methodology in place to teach the ritual (Officer's Association), it has an authoritative and well educated cadre of Grand Officer's in place to teach the ritual and carry questions / suggestions / complaints up to the Assistant Grand Lecturers and Grand Lecturer (Inspectors), and has a small, manageable, dedicated, well educated group of Ritual Authorities (Grand Lecturer and Five Assistant Grand Lecturers) to oversee the ritual. This system has worked, and despite its flaws, it continues to be a working and respected methodology with the backing of the Executive Committee and brethren of the lodges.

So, is ritual timeless and unchanging, written in stone and inflexible?

Not in California... thank the GAOTU
May the blessing of heaven rest upon us and all regular masons. May brotherly love prevail, and every moral and social virtue, cement us.


(1) Freemasonry as a Sacred Retreat by John W. Taylor
(3) Grand Lodge of California, Free and Accepted Masons, Installation Ritual, Obligations of a Master
(4) Merriam-Webster Online, Ritual, as a noun
(5) Slippery Slope, Wikipedia Online, English Version, 02-17-08
(6) A Discourse on Method, by Rene Descartes, ISBN-10: 0872204200; ISBN-13: 978-0872204201, Hackett Pub Co Inc; 4 edition (June 1999)

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Meeting on the Level

One of the privileges of being a master mason is that of visitation. It is also one of the privileges that I invoke at every opportunity. Last week, I was in Charleston, South Carolina for a few days, so I took the opportunity and looked up the local lodges in the Yellow Pages. Imagine my surprise to find five masonic lodges listed in the CITY of Charleston.

I shouldn't have been surprised. It turns out that the seat of the Grand Lodge is in Charleston...

So, on Thursday night, I showed up at Mariners Lodge #2 for their stated business meeting. Despite it being a business meeting night, I was welcomed with open arms, treated to a tour of the lodgeroom, and introduced all around. The master of the lodge, a bright and active man of 21 years is the youngest master of a lodge... ever in South Carolina. They just recently lowered the minimum age of petitioning to 18, and he has moved through the ranks quickly.

Having followed that same path (it took me four years to get to the east, and I have 25 years managing teams, groups, divisions and companies) I know how difficult it was for him! As always, I was taken by the differences, and similarities to their ritual and my own. It is one of these differences to which I allude in the title of this blog.

Meeting on the Level

In our ritual, we talk about how as masons we meet and act upon the level, honestly, openly, and in a most friendly manner. This lodge takes that symbolically one step further, and the symbolism of that step struck me as somehow right.

On closing, the master asks the Senior Warden how masons should meet. In South Carolina, the Senior steps down TO the level before answering. Same for the Junior Warden, and lastly, the master, so along with the rest of this ritual, they all three, end up standing upon the level. Then, to carry the symbolism further, when the master asks the brethren to act together, everyone else steps down onto the level, out from the chairs before complying.

These simple gestures reinforce the words of the ritual, by example. We all meet and act upon the level, in word, and, in deed.
May the blessing of heaven rest upon us and all regular masons. May brotherly love prevail, and every moral and social virtue, cement us!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

It's Time for Freemasons to Stop Apologizing for Being Masons!

Masonry has had its critics since the first Grand Lodge was formed in 1717 (and probably before that), and in the United States, there was even a short lived Anti Freemason Party. For the most part, we have, rightfully, ignored them as ignorant pinheads, unworthy of response.

For centuries, that was the appropriate response. After all, dignifying their complaints and accusations gave weight to their weightless and thoughtless words. Today, however, with the advent of the internet and the drive by media, it has become necessary to address the konspiracy kooks, with factual and substantive statements.

When I was first raised a Master Mason on November 3, 2001 in Riverside Lodge #259, my first encounter with the mindless hordes of hatemongering antimasonry was Freemasonrywatch. At the time, that was THE web site you found when searching for Freemasonry on the internet. Since then, it has become… irrelevant, and its founder, Kevin McNeil-Smith of British Columbia who styled himself as “Watchy”, have been pulled from the shadows.

Yet, in all this rush to address the hatemongers and the ignorant haters, we have, in a small degree, begun to act as if their arguments might, maybe, somehow, have a tiny degree of merit. We don’t grant that they have any merit of course, but our actions, to eliminate their arguments, are not helping us.
For example, the United Grand Lodge of England removed the penalties from the obligation, because one of the main complaints offered against freemasonry is the “bloody” penalties. As Freemasons, WE all know the penalties are symbolic, and that they have never been imposed by one brother upon another, yet the small minded, looking for any complaint, have latched on to them.

In the nature of addressing the complaints, then, the United Grand Lodge of England removed the penalties, and included, instead, an explanation of the penalties as symbols. The reasoning was that the penalties were offensive to some religious leaders, and the thought was that removing them would remove the objection:
Now to get back to our ANCIENT SYMBOLIC PENALTIES. Why on earth should we even consider relocating or removing then in the first place? "Oh because they are offensive to some religious leaders". That begs the question as to which religious leaders? Some of the greatest clergymen I have ever met, both the pragmatic and the scholarly, have been members of the Masonic Order. Not a single one of those extremely worldly wise reverend brothers ever dreamed of any part of the ceremony being offensive in any manner whatever, INCLUDING the penalties. Obviously no clergy outside of the craft should cause us any concern because they really don't understand the context of the ceremony or the part the penalties play in it. Now what does that leave us to contemplate? I believe it points out in the clearest possible terms that the Masonic Order is a true microcosm of the real world in which we live.1
Instead, the religious leaders who the UGLE was attempting to pander to, simply turned and said:
See, we TOLD you the penalties were wrong, even the MASONS recognize it. What else are we right about that if we persist, we might be able to get them to stop?

That is but one example. In 2005, the Grand Lodge of California decided that henceforth, the word TEMPLE would be removed from all building association names. Even the Grand Lodge changed the name of its building association.

The net result? Our detractors now claim we are trying to HIDE that we have temples of worship because of their criticism. It would have been better if we had simply answered their objection with facts instead of cutting and running, and making the situation worse.
That written, I have to include that the Grand Master and executive committee were acting with the best of intentions, as I am sure the UGLE Grand Officers were... its just that they don't seem to realize they are not dealing with rational people.

We are Freemasons. WE know that the no objection the detractors can whip up have any value, and we know that our ancient and honorable fraternity is dedicated to morality, honor, integrity and the betterment of mankind, one man at a time. Why then, do we allow these ridiculous hate mongers put us into a position where we change what we know is right?

Because we are who we are, great changes have been made to the world. Freemasons were integral to the formation of the United States, and the state of Texas, Freemasons were on the front lines in implementing public education in the United States, and many of the great luminaries of our age were Freemasons... Winston Churchill, Benjamin Franklin, Buzz Aldrin, George Washington and Amadeus Mozart, to name just FIVE.

These men LIVED their masonic principles, without apology, and so should we.
Its time that we stood up and said we are Freemasons, this is what our mission statement is, this is what we do… if you don’t like it, tough. We have our values, our morality, or tenets and teachings, and we cannot allow the vagaries of political correctness to drive us away from our core values.
May the blessing of heaven rest upon us and all regular masons. May brotherly love prevail, and every moral and social virtue, cement us.

... Ancient Symbolic Penalties ... by K. W. Aldridge

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Guest Editorial: Wr. Fred Milliken on Prince Hall Masonry

A comment from a reader of Theron Dunn’s Beacon of Masonic Light Blog writes:
Michael said...
These questions pertain to Masonry's interaction with biblical scripture, politics, religion and morals of every day life.

Brother, I'm curious: how do these square with the prohibition of discussing religion and politics in lodge meetings? Also, by requiring discussion of the Bible, how would you welcome a Mason (or prospective Mason) whose belief in God did not encompass the Bible? Again, I ask these questions because I'm curious, not because I'm inclined to argue.

The answer to your question goes way back in history. In fact you will find that many actions, styles and ways of doing things we do today not because of today’s reasons but because we have been doing them that way for so long that they have become part of the culture. As a Catholic I only have to think of my church. People ask, why all the statues, the stain glass pictures, the Stations of the Cross carvings mounted on the walls? It is because most people in early Christianity were illiterate. Written words were of no use to them. They learned from pictures and symbols, as did early Freemasons. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Many early Masons were also illiterate. Thus everything was passed down from “mouth to ear” and the lessons were taught by symbols with liberal use of The Tracing Boards. As time went on, the printing press was invented and more people began to read and write. Did these institutions change their ways? Did the Catholic Church then do away with their statues, engravings and stain glass depictions? Did Masonry abolish its symbols and go strictly with the written word? NO! WHY? Well these props, these accruements to the Institutions became part of the Institutions just like your arm is part of your body. They are the traditions of these Institutions and more modern ways are added on without removing them. Thus we have the age-old battle in Freemasonry, “we always do it this way.” More recent Protestant churches with a history of less than 200 years could start afresh without the centuries of traditions. Thus their architecture could reflect much less dependence on story and lesson telling through pictures and more upon the written word making their church buildings as some Catholics would say – “stark and bare”. And in Freemasonry some of the newer Appendant Bodies had less symbols and more lessons learned by drama or acting. Think of the Scottish Rite degrees here and how they differ from York Rite and Craft Lodge Masonry.

People have a hard time understanding this commitment to tradition and Masons are no different from the general public in this regard. To illustrate why I often point to the circular movement of vehicles. If I were to ask you why racecars go around the racetrack counter clockwise instead of clockwise what would you say? A good answer would be because that’s the way horses went around their racetrack. So why do horses travel counter clockwise (or dogs)? Would you believe it wasn’t always that way? Before the American Revolution all circular motion was done clockwise. It kind of makes sense that this would be the preferred style. But in our distaste for everything British in the late 1700s Americans changed all circular motion to counter clockwise. The birth of a new nation meant a separation from English ways. Now if I were to have the power to change it back, to pass a government decree that starting tomorrow all vehicles would now go around a rotary, all race cars, horse racers, all racing dogs, everything would move clockwise how popular do you think this decision would be? Well let me tell you there would be hell to pay. People would be up in arms. So ingrained in our culture today is the counter clockwise circular motion that to reverse or change it would be unthinkable. Why even when you go through the gates of Disney World the first inclination is to go to the right not the left.

But I digress with too much long-winded discourse. In regards to Prince Hall Masonry their style, their way of doing things is dictated by centuries of tradition. People forget how long Black Masonry has been around. Two Hundred & Thirty plus years is a long time to build up traditions and an ingrained culture style. In early Black Masonry Blacks did not have the freedom of association that whites had. Black men could not go down to the tavern or pub or coffeehouse or restaurant or movie theatre or dance hall or anything social like that at all. If they were free and unaccompanied by a white slave owner that was just not allowed. So how did a Black man meet other Black men? If there were no vehicles for Black association how did Black Masons recruit Black men into the Fraternity?

Well the one Institution where Black men, and Black families for that matter, could congregate was the Black church. Church gatherings were not prohibited by the dominant white culture of the time. And these churches were overwhelmingly Christian. Other religions within the Black community at this stage were unheard of. So the Black Mason limited in his areas of social contact recruited new members primarily from the church. Black Masonry tended to be poor. So most Black Lodges met at the church. The House of Worship was also the Masonic Temple. Thus did Prince Hall Masonry and Christianity become intertwined?

Because of this forced development style American Black culture and traditions emanated from the church and all Black activity became interconnected. Black culture does not recognize the strict observance of separation of church and state. Thus Black politicians and community leaders often came to the church to speak and influence people, Freemasonry and the church as we have seen were closely intertwined with most Masons coming from church membership, and Black Freemasonry was very community orientated working within the community for the betterment of the community. It was one big circle. Thus has Prince Hall Masonry become through its traditions very Christian orientated and very community charity orientated. But then again most Black development started with the church. Many Black ministers were community activists as were many Black Masons. I can remember growing up in the 50s and listening to Doo Wop groups who started and originated as church singers. Aretha Franklin and Della Reese were both first church singers before becoming popular professional paid singers. So what we can say about the Black community is that everything is interconnected. There is no sharp line of demarcation between what is one responsibility and what is another. And so Prince Hall Masonry is closed allied with church and political community life. It’s all one interconnected business or state of affairs with much sameness in thought and purpose. Everybody is on the same page. It lacks the diversity and variety of opinions and expressions of the white community. Thus if everyone thinks alike no one is there to object when Masonry is openly Christian because every Mason is a Christian. And it is not unusual for Evangelical Christians of Southern Baptist or nondenominational connections, who are the majority of Black Christian Masons, to openly express their Christianity in a manner not found in the more sedate, less vocal mainline churches.

But times are changing and have been changing in the Black community, especially since WWII. But as we have seen, traditions die hard. Northern Blacks tend to be more diverse today and Prince Hall Masonry there is drawing from many different cultures now. Less so is the South where Prince Hall still is closely associated with church and draws membership from the same.

But what needs to be noted here is, because of the interconnectiveness of this community, Prince Hall Masons merge their study of Institutions. Thus a Prince Hall Mason studying Freemasonry is also studying where Masonic thought and Biblical thought and political thought coincide. I for one think that many Mainstream Masons have forgotten how much of Masonic ritual comes directly from Scripture. We can find in the Biblical Books of Kings, Chronicles and The Book of Ruth, to name a few instances of this, much that is in the Masonic Monitor. And to point out this fact I don’t think can be construed as proselytizing Christianity inside the Masonic Lodge. So let me ask those Mainstream Masons who are reading this if they can tell me who Adoniram was and what was his involvement in the building of King Solomon’s Temple? Where can the man Boaz be found in the Bible, who was his son and what was his family lineage. These are all questions a Prince Hall Mason will know.

While there is mention of the Bible in Prince Hall Masonry and celebration of being Christian this is not the same as saying that other thought, other ways are excluded. It is only natural for those of like thought and belief to talk about their common shared heritage and lifestyle. But Prince Hall does not exclude other religions, races or creeds. There are some Muslim Prince Hall Masons. There can be other Holy Books besides the Holy Bible on the Prince Hall Masonic altar. Partisan Politics and sectarian religion are not discussed or debated in the Lodge. There is mutual celebration but the elimination of controversy.

So as we have seen Prince Hall has its traditions born of many years of separate Masonic observance forced upon it. Those Mainstream Lodges who have proposed a Prince Hall ~ Mainstream merger but only under the terms that Prince Hall practice Masonry the Mainstream way are asking Prince Hall to give up everything that has become common daily practice and tradition and that is not well received or a viable solution. Would you go around the traffic rotary tomorrow clockwise?

What we can do if we are Masons who practice differently is to understand what the differences are, how they got to be that way and if they are not my way then allow that they are another way of merit.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Masonic Business

As I noted in The Convention that Changed the Face of Freemasonry, it was traditional up until the mid 1800's for the business of lodges throughout the world to work in the first degree. Masonic Tradition Informs Us that this change was due to the William Morgan Affair, and was a change made to prevent cowans from sitting in on our business meetings. Shoot, I have been to and RUN several business meetings, and as far as I am concerned, they are welcome to sit in... the "secrets" of freemasonry are not discussed in business meetings anyway!

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

  1. Connecticut as of Apr. 1, 1987: Grand Lodge voted to allow Stateds on any degree, but only MM's vote.
  2. Missouri as of Sept. 27, 1994: Bylaws now says: A STATED COMMUNICATION requires that the lodges open on the first, second and third degrees.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Colorado as of January 1997.
  6. Kansas as of March 1997 by edict of the Grand Master
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. Alabama as of 1998: GL voted to allow business on any degree.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. Maryland as of 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.
  14. New Mexico as of March 2000
  15. Utah - No details available
  16. 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.
  17. Massachusetts, date not known Grand Lodge voted to allow Stateds on any degree, but only MM's vote.
  18. Vermont (Thanks Errol and Wr. O'Sullivan!!)
  19. Ohio (Thanks Tom)
  20. South Dakota (Thanks Silence Dogood)
  21. Texas as of 2007

Grand Lodges Where Business on the First Degree is Known to be Under Consideration

  • Alaska
  • Illinois
  • New York
  • Oklahoma
  • Texas

May the blessing of heaven rest upon us and all regular masons. May brotherly love prevail, and every moral and social virtue, cement us.


By Allen E. Roberts

We are indebted to Wor. Brother Roberts, a noted Masonic scholar and author, for accepting the challenge of preparing this Short Talk Bulletin. It is another example of his concern for the work of the Masonic service Association.

For more than one hundred forty years many Freemasons have been misinformed. They have not been told the full story of one of Free-masonry’s most important events.

This story starts in December, 1839. It began with a resolution adopted by the Grand Lodge of Alabama, which requested all Grand Lodges to send a delegate to the City of Washington on the first Monday in March, 1842, “for the purpose of determining upon a uniform mode of work throughout all the Lodges of the United States and to make other lawful regulations for the interest and security of the Craft.” (The emphasis is mine, for this indicates what I mean when I say we have been misinformed.)

The Convention was held on March 7, 1842, “in the Central Masonic Hall at four and a half and D Streets N.W.” Ten Grand Lodges were represented. And these representatives refused to seat a delegate from the Grand Lodge of Michigan, declaring that it had not been established under constitutional principles. The report was made by Charles W. Moore, Chair-man of Credentials Committee and Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts. The Convention upheld his report.

After due deliberation, it was concluded that not enough Grand Lodges were represented, and there was not enough time to formulate a uniform ritual that would be acceptable to all Grand Lodges. Differences of opinion among the committee selected to develop a uniform mode of work were too many and not reconcilable. The Convention voted to request each Grand Lodge to appoint some well-versed Mason and style him as a Grand Lecturer to report to a Convention to be held the following year.

The report of another Committee was to have important, immediate, and far reaching effects on the Grand Lodges of the country. The “Committee on General Regulations Involving The Interests and Security of The Craft” reported in several areas. It recommended that the Representative System “already adopted by some of the Grand Lodges” be extended to all Grand Lodges. To protect the Fraternity from unworthy men claiming to be Masons, the Committee recommended that “certificates of good standing of visiting Brethren who are strangers” be made available by the Grand Lodge to which they belong. “These certificates will not only shield the Institution,” said the committee, “from the undeserving, but will furnish the widow and orphans of the deceased Brethren the best evidence of their claim upon the Fraternity.”

This Committee also considered as “reprehensible” the practice “of receiving promissory notes for the fees for conferring Degrees, instead of demanding the payment thereof before the Degrees are conferred.”

The Committee considered it an “impropriety” to transact “business in Lodges below the Degree of Master Mason, except as such that appertains to the conferring of the inferior Degrees and the instruction therein.” It credited the Grand Lodge of Missouri for bringing this to the attention of Freemasons everywhere. The Committee went on to say “Entered Apprentices and Fellow Crafts are not members of Lodges, nor are they entitled to the franchises of members.”

The suspension of a Mason for non-payment of dues was also considered by the Committee. It believed that uniform legislation should be adopted by the Grand Lodges to protect the Fraternity.

It wasn’t long before several Grand Lodges changed their laws to conform to the recommendations of this Committee. Certificates or cards were issued by Grand Secretaries to members of Lodges. And Grand Lodges ordered lodges to set cash fees for conferring degrees. Representatives were appointed by some Grand Lodges that had never done so before. And many Grand Lodges changed from conferring all business in the Entered Apprentice Degree to that of the Master Mason Degree.

Maryland was one Grand Lodge that acted almost immediately on these suggestions. on May 16, 1842, it voted to elect one Grand Lecturer to attend the conference in I843. It ordered the Grand Secretary to procure certificates to issue to Master Masons in good standing. It ordered all Lodges to conduct their business in the Master Mason Degree. It said “that when a Mason is suspended for any cause whatever, he is for the time of such suspension debarred from all rights and privileges of the order.”

In 1842, some Lodges in Virginia started conducting their business in the Master Mason Degree. So it went over the next several years, but it was as late as 1851 before the Grand Lodge of Maine changed from working or conducting its business in the First to that of the Master Mason Degree.

It might be well to consider why some of the leaders of Freemasonry were concerned about the looseness of the ritual, as well as many other facts of the Fraternity.

Looking back to the year 1826, and the two decades that followed, it is found that in 1826, one William Morgan, who had purported to be a Freemason, disappeared. Freemasons were ac-cused of murdering him, although there has never been any evidence that he was harmed in any way. He merely disappeared. This set off a hue and cry against Freemasonry. In many in-stances, Grand Lodges could not find a quorum to meet. Lodges turned in their charters by the hundreds. Freemasons quit by the thousands. Freemasonry was in deplorable condition.

During this period many of the ritualists and the men who had been dedicated to the principles of Freemasonry were lost to the Craft. Many died. Others quit because of the persecution handed down to their families because they would not renounce their membership in the Order. For these and various other reasons, Masonic Lodges were not operating anywhere near their capacity.

This was the state of affairs in the late 1830s, when Alabama called for a Convention to rectify many of the things that had gone awry. These were some of the things causing the Convention meeting in Washington to make the recommendations it did. These were some of the things carried into the Baltimore Convention of 1843, the Convention which we have heard so much about.

The ritual in its various forms did take much of the time of those attending the Baltimore Convention from May 8 to 17, 1843, meeting in the Masonic Hall on Saint Paul Street with six-teen of the twenty-three Grand Lodges in the United States represented. But many hours were taken to discuss the several points brought out during the convention held in Washington. And it approved everything that had been accomplished in the District.

The evening session was opened with the ad-dress of the President of the Convention, John Dove of Virginia. His opening remarks stated the purpose for the Convention: “For the first time in the Masonic history of the United States of North America, the Craft have found it necessary and expedient to assemble by their representatives, to take into consideration the propriety of devising some uniform mode of action by which the ancient landmarks of our beloved Order may be preserved and perpetuated, and by which posterity in all times to come may be enabled to decide with certainty upon the pretensions of a Brother, no matter in which section of our blessed and happy land he may reside; and, finally, and we hope no distant date, to transfer those inestimable privileges to our Brothers throughout the Masonic World.” Dove’s statement shows that much more than the ritual was involved.

The following day, May 9, the “Committee on the General Object of the Convention” submitted its report. It said: “The objects of the Convention are two-fold, viz.: 1. To produce uniformity of Masonic Work; 11. To recommend such measures as shall tend to the elevation of the Order to its due degree of respect throughout the world at large.”

Four standing committees were appointed:

1. On the work and lectures in conferring Degrees.

2. On the Funeral Service.

3. On the ceremonies of Consecration and Installation.

4. On Masonic Jurisprudence.

It is interesting to note the prominent Masons who were appointed to the Committee on Work. John Dove, at the insistence of the Convention, became the Chairman. John Barney of Ohio, S.W.B. Carnegy of Missouri, Charles W. Moore of Massachusetts, and Ebenezer Wadsworth of New York were the other members.

On the morning of May 10, this Committee recited the lecture of the First Degree. The Convention adopted the work of the Committee by a vote of fourteen to one. Ebenezer Wadsworth of New York, cast the dissenting vote. The following day, the Committee reported “on the opening and closing of ceremonies of the First Degree” and their work was accepted by the Convention. Then the Chairman of the Commit-tee, John Dove, assisted by Charles Moore, reported the lecture of the Second Degree. This work was also accepted by the Convention. But evidently Ebenezer Wadsworth was not happy with the work that had been accepted by the Convention. He “requested to be excused from serving longer on the Committee on Work.” He was excused and Brother Edward Herndon, of Alabama, substituted.

At the Friday morning session, “the opening work of the Third Degree was accepted by the Convention with a vote of twelve to one “with New York dissenting.”

On Monday morning, May 15, the following was reported: “The undersigned Committee on the Dedication, Consecration and Installation of Lodges, etc., having had the several subjects submitted to them under consideration, beg leave respectfully to report that they have examined and carefully compared all the various authors and systems which they have been able to obtain, and present the following, viz.:

“That the forms in the ‘Monitor,’ under the authorship of M.W. Thomas S. Webb, republished in 1812, possesses the least faults of any which have been before them, and has a high claim to antiquity, and having been in general use as a standard work for nearly half a century, possess no errors of material as to re-quire alteration, except as follows.” There followed six minor changes that it recommended be made, three of them in the Installation Ceremony.

Concerning the “Certificates of Good Stan-ding,” the Convention said that the Washington Convention of 1842 earnestly recommended to the consideration of the Fraternity “such Certificate, and where it has escaped attention in the deliberations of any Grand Lodge, this Convention call it to their view, as being a check admirably calculated to preserve the Fraternity from unworthy Brethren from a distance, and an additional means of protection to the good and the deserving.”

The Convention adopted a resolution that was to have far-reaching and controversial effects:

That a Committee be designated to prepare and publish at an early day, a text hook, to he called “The Masonic Trestle-Board,” to embrace three distinct, full and complete “Masonic Carpets,” illustrative of the three Degrees of ancient Craft Masonry; together with the ceremonies of consecrations, dedications and installation; laying of corner-stones of public edifices; the Funeral service, and order of processions. To which shall be added the Charges, Prayers and Exhortations, and the selection from scripture, appropriate and proper for Lodge service. The Committee further report, that they deem it expedient that a work be published to contain archaeological research into the history of the Fraternity in the various nations of the world.

The Committee on Masonic Jurisprudence reported it had considered whether or not “the evils which this Convention has met to rectify and remove, have arisen from any defect or fault in the present system of organizations as adopted by the Fraternity of the United States.” It concluded the evils existed, mainly because of the individual action of the numerous Grand Lodges in the United States. Inter-communication between Grand Lodges did not exist. The “purity and unity” of work prevalent in Europe was therefore missing.

“UNITY throughout the whole Masonic family is essential,” claimed the Committee. “Any system of polity tending to throw obstacles in its way must be wrong. The simple truth that we are all Brethren of one family, and look up to one common Father, the Lord our God, is the basis of all the ancient constitutions . “

To correct the “evils” that prevailed, the Committee said it had considered two plans:

“1st. A General Grand Lodge of the United States. 2nd. A triennial convention of representatives of the several Grand Lodges of the United States.”

It went on to state: “Your Committee, without encumbering their report with long arguments, beg to recommend the latter course as being that, which in their opinion, will best attain the end proposed.” So, contrary to what many Freemasons have been led to believe, the Baltimore Convention of 1843 did not recommend the establishment of General Grand Lodge. It did recommend “the several Grand Lodges of the United States to enter into and form a National Masonic Convention.”

The Jurisprudence Committee had also considered a question about whether or not a Lodge could try its Master. It concluded: “The Master is an integral part of its government, unable to sit in judgment on himself, and yet without whom the Lodge could not act, without, as it were, committing felon de se (suicide). The Committee offered the following, with which the Convention concurred.... “a subordinate Lodge has not the right to try its Master, but that he is amenable to the Grand Lodge alone.”

The Committee considered sojourning Masons as “freeloaders.” It believed all Masons living in the vicinity of a Lodge and not a member of it should be required to contribute “a sum equal in value to the annual dues per capita of the subordinate Lodge in whose jurisdiction they reside.” The Convention voted to recommend that all Grand Lodges take this recommendation under advisement.

In an attempt to bring unity “Throughout the world in all things pertaining to Masonry,” the Convention approved a recommendation to send “a Delegate from the Masonic Fraternity of the United States to their Brethren in Europe.”

On the evening of May 15 the Committee on Work exemplified the opening and closing of the Lodge in “the Third Degree.” The ceremonies for opening and closing a Lodge were exemplified on the morning of the 16th. Then the Convention adopted a resolution thanking the Grand Lodge of Maryland for its hospitality. It was especially appreciative of Maryland assuming all expenses. This was followed by the presentation of the “Lecture of the First Degree.”

It was “Resolved, that the interest of the Masonic Fraternity, and the good of mankind may be greatly promoted by the publication of a periodical devoted to Free-Masonry. This Convention, therefore, cheerfully recommend the Free-Mason’s Monthly Magazine, edited and published by 13rother Charles W. Moore, of Boston, Massachusetts as eminently useful and well-deserving the generous patronage, support and study of the whole Fraternity.” The Convention concurred.

Each delegate contributed $5.00 to defray the expenses of printing. It was resolved to hold the next Convention in Winchester, Virginia, “on the second Monday in May, in the year I846.” This was never held.

The evening session of May 16th was devoted to the degree work. “The President repeated the first section of the F.C. and M.M. Degrees; and Brother Moore, the second sections of the same Degrees. The Committee then exemplified the work in the Third Degree.”

On the morning of the last day of the Convention, the Master Mason Degree was exemplified. Then, while the President was absent from the hall, “Brother Carnegy took the chair,” and a resolution praising John Dove of Virginia was unanimously adopted. Albert Case of South Carolina was also thanked for his work as secretary. The concluding session was held in the afternoon of May 17th. The Convention approved a letter, read by the Secretary, Albert Case, to be sent to “the Masonic Fraternity of the United States.” Each paragraph contained the flowery language of the day pleading with the Freemasons of the country to unite in love, friendship and brotherhood.

This letter, written immediately following the anti-Masonic craze that began in 1826, called upon all Lodges “to exercise their powers and cleanse the sanctuary” of unfaithful Masons. It concluded by asking all Freemasons to “Be true to your principles, and the great moral edifice will stand beautiful and complete. Together, Brethren, be true and faithful.”

The President thanked the delegates for the compliments paid him, and for their diligent work. He called upon the Chaplain to dismiss them with prayer. The Convention was then adjourned sine die.

The Convention was ended, but its accomplishments would change the face of Freemasonry throughout the United States.

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