Friday, February 15, 2008

Worth the Wait

A little more than 8 months after my first post mentioning Freemasonry, I am at last an Entered Apprentice.

I'm still digesting the ceremony, which is a pretty remarkable thing to have the opportunity to experience in this 21st century.

I am a little surprised at how much I had already absorbed by osmosis over the last 8 months... I have deliberately avoided descriptions of the degrees this whole time, and indeed that which I swore an obligation to protect was new to me... but there were quite a few phrases and concepts thrown around that I recognized from various Masonic writings I've perused over the months.

As I read back over that first post about Masonry and bullshit detectors, I can suddenly remember how vaguely suspicious I was when I wrote it - suspicious of the fraternity as possibly being just another good old boys' club, and suspicious of the rituals, which I didn't know anything about at the time. I had the typical "Why is it called a temple if it's not a religion? What do they do in there?" questions still rattling around in my head.

With the benefit of first-hand experience, I can finally, unequivocally state that that kind of unease about the ritual is totally unwarranted - so if you're reading this from the same place I was last summer --interested in Freemasonry but not sure about this "ritual" stuff you hear so much about-- seriously, don't let it put you off. Read some books, contact a lodge and talk to some Brothers, and if you're a man of good character who believes in a supreme being, then go for it.

About the night of the ceremony:

I arrived before the stated meeting as I had been instructed, and met the other three candidates - three of us are all in our early thirties, and the fourth in his early twenties. As we were getting prepared, Brothers were filing past us into the lodge room before the meeting. We were reassured several times that there was no harm or humiliation in store for us, and that every Mason in the lodge (or any lodge, through history) had gone through the same thing. We chatted and joked amongst ourselves to dispel nervous energy while the lodge conducted its business meeting before the degree. The Tyler poked his head in from time to time and talked with us as well. I learned that my lodge building had once housed a Royal Arch chapter, an Order of the Eastern Star chapter, and even a Knights Templar commandery, but over the years participation dropped off to the point where the few remaining active members wound up being absorbed by bodies in neighboring towns.

Finally, we were brought into the lodge room one at a time. As it turned out, I went last and so I had a few minutes outside the lodge room alone with my thoughts. It was a little bit strange to be in the middle of a 300+ year old ceremony while looking out the window and seeing the electric lights and oblivious traffic zooming back and forth on main street. It was quite interesting to think about my granduncle, my great-grandfather, and my great-great-great grandfather being in the exact same place in other lodges some 70, 100, 150+ years ago, not to mention all of the historical Masons whose names are always being rattled off: Washington, Franklin, both Roosevelts, et cetera. The "famous Masons list" has become a bit of a cliché, but knowing that those men went through more or less the very same experience does serve as a kind of bond with them, and an equalizer.

After it was over, I will admit that I felt a little bit like Inigo Montoya at the end of The Princess Bride ("I have been in the revenge business so long, now that it's over, I don't know what to do with the rest of my life."); after waiting for 2/3 of a year, all of that mental energy leading up to my First Degree has suddenly dissipated! I am a Mason - since the other night it's a thought that pops into my head occasionally, and I'm still not used to it. The fact that I do indeed attach some significance to the fact is clearly an indicator some of that elusive meaning with which I've been obsessed.

After lodge was closed, we formed a reception line of sorts and all of the Brothers in attendance came by to introduce themselves and congratulate us. I'll be going back to the lodge on Monday to start working on my proficiency, and later this month I'll be heading to another lodge in the district to attend a "lodge of instruction", which I understand to be an orientation/lecture program that is part of the Masonic experience under the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts. I can't wait to get started.

1 comment:

Tim said...

Congrats on the EA degree. You know, several of us at Artisan were invited to go and because of conflicting schedules I don't think that anyone did attend. It is a shame. We have been blessed with many visitors but we ourselves have been slow to visit our bretheren. Let me know when you're scheduled for your Fellowcraft. Maybe I can round up some troops. After all...we may seeing your face after your house is complete