Saturday, July 25, 2009

One Day Class


There are sections within the Fraternity which tend to “look down” upon those who did not take the “traditional” course of instructions. This group of hard core Brothers played by the rules and to see that the same rules get “optimized” for the benefit of some reasons they don’t agree is always comes down to a very predictable reaction. If we are to view Freemasonry as an entity that provide ladder for societal advancement, then the manner by which a brother achieve his laurel of victory i.e. Master Mason Degree is a consideration may be worth looking into. There are those who in spite of lack of memorization skills forged ahead to get through proficiency examination in front of the entire Lodge therefore, gets annoyed to those who skipped the process. Justice is a tenet of Freemasonry---meeting on the level, acting by the plumb and parting upon the square. Those words are more than learning by rote.

Having said that, in my view, it is un-Masonic conduct to treat any Brothers “less” than those who did went through the “old fashioned way.” Obviously, there were not many options offered to the candidates as the some jurisdictions made the decision for them. I have witnessed candidates who preferred to go through “long form” rather than the easier “short form” proficiency examinations. One doesn’t have to be surprised why it’s easier for them to get “approval” and recognition from the old-timers.

Aside from obvious abbreviated time, the "law of unintended consequenses" of the one-day class of conferring degrees is an issue for the hard liners. The perceived deficiency in "real world of masonic knowledge" of one-day class graduates is a bone of contention to those heavily tilted to "traditional" way. If we view Freemasonry as a mere good old buddy system, i.e. Fraternity then it could be assume that the "real world of masonic knowledge" is about passwords and tokens, lecture, and dramas. One doesn't need to sound mystical about such mundane exercise as one can visit a local book store or watch video peddled by "born again" ex-Masons. There are not many Lodges that would subject a visiting Brother with full blown 3rd Degree proficiency examinations. In the "real" world that could be characterized as "cruel and unusual punishment." There are Grand Lodges that require successfully completion of MM proficiency to be able to serve as appointed or elected officer of the Lodge. The unstated idea is to make sure those going through the line has the determination and mental capability to tackle what lies ahead e.g. memorization of duties, Charge, fellow craft lecture, etc. Anyone, who were able to commit to memory all three degrees proficiency examination in "long form" (did I say Obligations?) could be expected to tackle the staircase lecture as a starter.

On the other hand, if we perceived Freemasonry as “a system of morality, veiled in allegories and illustrated by symbols,” what moral lessons in one-day class can we identify as deficient from the preferred method? If we already taken the interest of some good men, would a one day class would make them less than from what they were? Men stayed with the Fraternity not because of the short or long class but because they found something that held and sustained their interest. Whether the curiosities are about philosophical, mystical, camaraderie, and even religious, these are also examples of why men joined the Craft. Sustaining interest on a deeply held notion is what makes an individual do what others do not even care about.

Furthermore, let us not assume that those who went through the "traditional way" are smarter and better prepared than those who went through one-day class. It is unwise to make too quick generalization. In his speech at CT, the author of Freemasonry for Dummies, Brother Chris Hodapp mentioned that he went through one-day class therefore, I am confident that he can intelligently discuss anything about the Craft with anybody. Let us not turn our blind eye to some of those whose slept through the conferrals and woke up just in time to receive the platitude of "32nd Degree" or "Super Most Excellent Master." Manly Hall once said that a Mason who is seeking the Truth may find high things in low places and low things at high places. Key word as a counsel to ear my dear Brother, is not to lose the sight of the lesson of Tolerance. As any awake "Prince of the Royal Secret" or 32nd Degree Mason would remember that there is a value in finding balance in our life.

One of various rationale of one-day class is to make “easier” for the contemporary man to “join” the Craft. Time as always gets to be blamed for the majority of illness in this world. The process to become a Master Mason is “too long” for some hence, comes an abbreviated version as if the idea was taken from the “higher bodies” e.g. Scottish Rite or York Rite class concept. Same pretext, it takes too long to become Knight Templar or get 32nd Degree so instead of experience, the candidates get to watch the process from the comfort of his chair or bench. So much for the initiatory experience, the feeling of getting lost, uncertainty, rush of adrenalin, the acceptance of something beyond ones control, the initial thought of “Aha” and the possible glimpse of a dark side of the unknown. These concept are lost during our pursuit to draw “more” members. Somehow the quest becomes an exercise of numbers and statistics as if the Craft is about profit, operating expenses, overhead, etc. In the never ending discussion of quality versus quantity, the one-day class is heavily tilted to quantity cabal of Fraternity.

There are those who opposed this idea for its unfairness to those who will miss the very essence of the initiatory process. There are many small and invisible but valuable nuances that make up an experience, sitting on the chair and watching someone stumble on might be funny at a time but that is not what the Degree work is about. It is more than amateur stage plays and although the modern Freemasonry initiatory practice is a mere shadow of the real process---every Masonic Degree work is a favor not a required statistic for someone advancement.

“Each degree work should be considered as a favor to be given and not as a requirement to fulfill. We should and must hands out favors sparingly, to give it to those we hope that will return the same favor to somebody else when we old-timers were gone and soon to be forgotten.”

It is truly a gift.

Degree Works- A Favor.


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