Discussion on the Observations
of an Entered Apprentice

Brethren, the Web address of this page has not been widely disseminated; nor do I see any reason for it to be so. This page is here purely for the purpose of the discussion that has flourished recently regarding our Masonic Ritual. This discussion begins with the original memo written by an Entered Apprentice after having first experienced and then witnessed the Degree. All e-mail responses and replies to that memo have been posted in chronological order. There have been multiple personal responses as well, but I will not presume to recreate those.

The name of the author and any identifying information of the author or Lodge have been removed from all posts. I see nothing to be gained by knowing who said what.

Future contributions that are thoughtful, considered, and respectful of the topic will be added. If you wish to make such a contribution to this discussion please use our Contact Us page.


Observations of an Entered Apprentice

10:54 PM

A memo to whom it may concern:

 

I will first begin this short piece with some forethought. I would like to say that my personal ritual experience was a blessed and joyful event. It was everything that I thought it would be and more. I wouldn’t have it changed for anything. Having a brother and friend guide me through the steps of entrance using the mysterious words and actions were a memory I shall never forget.

 

However having had the privilege that I did, being the first of many to approach from behind closed doors and then gain the benefit of the light before the others, I have a question and a concern that I would like to pose.

 

I watched the newly appointed complete the same important steps that I had but I felt deep-hearted and sad when I saw the officers that led them faltering at almost every turn. I am not one to say that the practices are within my grasp of understanding at this point, nor may they ever be. But I could not help but relate their entrance into the lodge to mine and feel saddened by what they must have perceived. I noticed throughout the rituals that followed that many times the officers had to stop and restart their sentences, stop walking and then turn in different directions and basically destroy a beautiful and ancient rite of passage that was meant to entice younger brethren into thirsting for the knowledge and mysteries that lay behind every word, step, and action that followed.

 

I watched as the EA’s-to-be laughed and smiled while HW’d because they knew that the ones around them were making mistake after mistake. If that would have happened during my entrance into the lodge I would have lost all interest in my future with the brotherhood. I joined, as I’m sure others have, to experience the fraternal end of things as well as the mystic that it poses. How can one take from what happened anything but, “this is a joke, lets grab a beer afterward.” I was hurt deeply by this. I know that with ritual there will come error, but this seemed more like a training class for the officers-to-be. (which I later found out it was!)

 

How do we presume to have the right to train ourselves during someone else’s initiatory rite or ceremony when we ourselves experienced a near flawless entrance. Most of you out there came into the craft at an age that mandated seriousness and secrecy. Now, all someone has to do is be the least bit interested and they are in! I understand that this is out of our control due to an age of decline for this organization; HOWEVER it is not out of our control to maintain the dignity and importance that this rite represents to all masons abroad, both newly accepted and weathered. Please, to those out there that care, do not involve yourself in an actual ritual if you are not sure of yourself, and have not been duly tried. Attend the training and practice classes, find a coach who will help you, but don’t take the life out of someone else’s ritual experience.

 

What I witnessed was embarrassing to me as a brother, and I appeal to all of you to stop using the initiatory rites of newly petitioned brothers to train officer potentials. And even if those out there have time constraints on their life it is not their right to presume that they are more important than someone else just beginning the path. Or that their determination to be an officer should take precedence over the importance of the future EA’s first, second, or third experience with the craft. Our whole goal is to bring the lodge back to what it once was. We cannot do this if we belittle its value by degrading the importance and solemnity of the ritual on which we are founded.

 

I know myself to be an EA, and I know my role is to sit back and learn from the long acquainted brethren, but I cannot hold my tongue when I see a future such as this. I want to be a member of a lodge that holds itself to the highest oratory, ritual, and moral standards in regards to the craft and how it is performed. Not a member of a lodge that holds little or no worth on its newest members or its historical value.

 

If nothing else, please don’t let this fall on deaf ears. For those of you out there who have seen what I have, or may have experienced what I have seen, don’t remain silent about this. The only way to change something is to be heard. So please let someone know, if you feel the same way.


Discussion on Observations of an EA

(1) October 21 - 1:40 AM

Hello Brother ***,

I have to say that was a powerful letter. I think he's exactly right and it's something that needed to be said, but I would like to hear your thoughts on what you think we should or can do about it.

name deleted


(2) October 21 - 8:17 AM

***
I"m not surprised in that young man's writings at all. We experienced that the other night at ****** Lodge didn't we? It happens in all lodges sorry to say as you well know. I know this  young man's parents and I can see them in what he says and how he says it. Seeing this writing makes me want all the more to get the *** trained and on the move to help provide better experiences for our brothers going through the degrees. Anyway, thanks for sharing that letter with me my friend.

name deleted


(3) October 21 - 9:00 AM

Can you find out for me if Brother ***** would mind if I reprinted this in our lodge newsletter? Also find out if he would not mind if the Valley, the Grand Lodge, maybe even send it off for the Scottish Rite Journal.

Please send my thanks for this letter to Brother *****, it was especially well written, and I plan to send it directly to a few officers I know, hopefully, to motivate them.

See you in ****** Friday morning, or Thursday night dinner at ****

name deleted


October 24 - 2:06 PM - reply to (3)

Brother ****,

I appreciate your positive reaction to *****'s letter. Motivation to do better ritual was the intent of publishing the letter. Unfortunately, it has caused a degree of disharmony, particularly in the Lodge where the events took place. I think this was something that needed to be said. However, I'm not sure that it needs to be said over and over. My feeling is that were the Brethren of the Lodge in question to see it again, especially in cold hard print, it would only increase the disharmony.

Of course, I did not write the letter and I have no control over what happens to an e-mail after it's sent. All I can say is if you should decide to use the letter further please consider carefully the unintended consequences that could result.

I have forwarded your thanks to Brother *****, and I'm sure he appreciates your positive response.

Ryans on Thursday sounds good. Unfortunately, I won't be able to get to ****** until Friday morning.

See ya there.

Fraternally yours,

name deleted 


(4) October 21 - 11:17 AM

Brother ***,

As always, it's good to hear from you! I appreciate the good job that you always do with this newsletter and with communication for our district.

This letter strikes a nerve with me - part good, and part bad. I understand where our new brother comes from. He is right, our rituals need vast improvement as most lodges are suffering from both infrequent work, and all the time constraints society places upon us.

However, I am concerned that our new brother is so quick to weigh in with critical comment. If he is willing to pass judgement that quickly, then he is in for a difficult time in the fraternity.

Take care good friend. I look forward to seeing you in ****** this coming weekend!

name deleted


October 21 - 12:33 PM - reply to (4)

Brother ******,

It's good to hear from you, as well. I'm glad you enjoy the newsletter and will do my best to keep the communications open.

I'm glad the letter strikes a nerve with you, as it should. I think the fact that he is a novice is exactly why the letter should be so meaningful to all of us. He has expressed his observations and feelings from an objective viewpoint without forming previous alliances or prejudices. I don't think his intention was to be critical or judgmental, but to openly express the way we may be perceived by those who enter for the first time. Perception in life is everything and I think we need to ask ourselves how we want to be perceived, not only by the newly initiated but by the public in general.

More and more of our new members are coming to us through the Internet. These men have researched the Fraternity. They have read histories and stories of noble causes, sacrifice, battles fought for justice and freedom, selfless charity, mysterious and arcane knowledge. These are the things they expect to find when they knock on our door. Instead, they find a bunch of guys who have to have their lines whispered to them by someone else and who wander to and fro about the lodge room. It's understandable that they would be disappointed. If we can not give them at least a taste of what it is they are expecting to find then we will have lost most of them at the door.

Yes, the time constraints of our society are daunting and family and work must, and should, come first. But a Brother deserves the absolute best Degree performance that can be arranged. The answer? I'm not sure. I'm still struggling with that myself. I think if we consider each man who knocks at our Outer door as if he were our own son, brother, or father, and ask ourselves what level of performance would we want them to receive perhaps therein lies the beginnings of the answer.

As for Brother *****, I consider him to be a messenger. We may not like the message he brings but that is not his fault.

Take care Brother ******. I look forward to seeing you in ******, as well. We'll have to go shopping to find some accessories to go with our new cap.

Fraternally yours,

name deleted


(5) October 21 - 12:16 PM

A hail and hearty, Hear Hear, to the newly made brother who wrote the memo about his initiation. Yes I know that I'm not the best at degree work but I try to do my part to the best of my abality.

name and Lodge No. deleted


(6) October 21 - 12:20 PM

***, This is a very nice letter. But if you are to be good at ritual you must work in it. If ridicule is what a new member has after one night let those who are perfect do all the work. I myself am trying to learn this. But if this is to help us improve, I feel it has fell short. If there be a perfect Freemason let him cast the first stone, not an Entered Apprentice after one Visit.

Thanks, name deleted

P,S, I never have heard lets grab a beer from anyone.


October 21 - 12:58 PM - reply to (6)

******,

If all you found in this letter is ridicule then I think you are missing the point. We are all trying to learn the ritual but we can not use another man's rite of passage as a rehearsal and that, I think, is what the Brother perceived in the Degrees he witnessed. None of us are prefect ritualists, but the time to hone our craft and perfect our skills is not during a candidate's Degree. He bought his ticket and placed his trust in us when he accepted the HW over his ****. He deserves a performance, not a practice. If I bought a ticket to see the Rolling Stones and they came out and plinked around on their instruments I'm pretty sure I would be disappointed.

I'm glad the letter strikes a nerve with you, as it should. I think the fact that he is a novice is exactly why the letter should be so meaningful to all of us. He has expressed his observations and feelings from an objective viewpoint without forming previous alliances or prejudices. I don't think his intention was to be critical or judgmental, but to openly express the way we may be perceived by those who enter for the first time. Perception in life is everything and I think we need to ask ourselves how we want to be perceived, not only by the newly initiated but by the public in general.

More and more of our new members are coming to us through the Internet. These men have researched the Fraternity. They have read histories and stories of noble causes, sacrifice, battles fought for justice and freedom, selfless charity, mysterious and arcane knowledge. These are the things they expect to find when they knock at our door. Instead, they find a bunch of guys who have to have their lines whispered to them by someone else and who wander to and fro about the lodge room. It's understandable that they would be disappointed. If we can not give them at least a taste of what it is they are expecting to find then we will have lost most of them at the door.

As for Brother ******, I consider him to be a messenger. We may not like the message he brings but that is not his fault.

Fraternally yours,

name deleted


(7) October 21 - 3:45 PM

Brother ****,

Thanks for writing back and I agree, we MUST do some shopping for our new caps!

You make very good points - especially concerning the internet and what I will call the "Second Enlightenment" if you will - knowledge at your www - dot - fingertips. They do search, see all of this cool stuff, mysteries, secret societies, brotherhood, fraternity, etc... and then reality hits when they walk into the lodge room.

No, it was not like that when I joined 16, almost 17 years ago. Lodges were full of master ritualists and the ceremony was conducted with respect, reverence, and skill. Very few anymore are.

Thank you for pointing that out to me. And no, I don't know the answer either. I searched for it this past year as master...and failed.

My best to you and your family,

name deleted


(8) October 21 - 5:19 PM

Brother ***,

What a perceptive letter for such a young Mason! It should make the more seasoned member feel profound embarrassment. ****** expresses too graphically what you and I have talked about so briefly and have felt so long. I repeatedly remind our brethren that we should never confer a degree without finding the most skilled ritualists, no matter where we find them. And we should never put a person in a degree who does not know the work. I keep telling our people that, if the evening arrives and not enough brethren to know the work are not present, we should reschedule. Whatever disappoint a candidate may feel at the delay, he will appreciate it even more when he receives a degree that is well executed. Sometimes I've felt like using that word executed in a different way and not in reference to the ritual.

I have witnessed degrees so bad I wanted to crawl under the lodge building for embarrassment. I especially recall one 3rd degree that made it necessary to apologize to the candidate and urge him to come back and observe the same degree when it is well done. So far as I know he never set foot in the lodge again!

Just this week, I informed a Master not to assign a certain brother to do the obligation, since he had not learned it well. "But, he wants to do it," he said. Then urge him to come to our weekly practice so he can learn it. Or I will meet him privately and instruct him (I had already offered this). Ignoring my admonition, he assigned him to the degree at our last meeting. It was a disaster. So, I informed the brother himself that he should not attempt this again until he learned it properly under my instruction (or someone else known to me to be proficient).

What really grieves me is that this EA's experience is far to common, and what is worse there are brethren whose only interest is "gittin' it done" no matter how bad it is.

Fraternally,

name deleted


October 21 - 6:15 PM - reply to (1) included in weekly newsletter

Well the memo, "Observations of an Entered Apprentice," that you received last night has been causing quite a stir, mostly positive and some negative. This, I think, is a good thing. I believe our ritual, past, present, and future should be a central topic for spirited discussion. Our Masonic ritual is, after all, what sets us apart from all other fraternal societies. Through the ages others have copied Masonic ritual in the creation of their own. Masonic ritual is intended to impart knowledge and transmit our mysteries in ways that mere words can not do. But, Masonic ritual is not intended to explain the Mysteries, only to point them out and entice the seeker of light to search deeper. If we are to set this spark that will lead the Initiate to seek more light the Masonic ritual should be performed with sincerity, emotion, meaning, and yes, proficiency.

One more thing and then I promise to set down and hush, (yeah, right). In my own observations I have seen more and more of our candidates are coming to us through the Internet and web site contacts. In many cases these men have no previous relationship with the Lodge, nor any attachment to the Lodge whatsoever. They have seen us in movies; they have read stories and histories of us in books and online. They have heard, read, and seen tales of heroism, nobility, sacrifice, just battles, and mysterious and arcane knowledge. These are the things they expect to find when they knock at our door. Ask yourself if we are living up to their expectations. If we can not give them at least a taste of what it is they seek then it is little wonder that we see so few of them back in Lodge after they are Raised.

I have been asked for my thoughts as to what could or should be done. I offer those here for your consideration. These are in no particular order.

  • Knowledge does not come to those who wait for it. It comes to those who seek it.
  • Pick a part, any part, and determine to learn it.
  • Contact your DDGL or other knowledgeable Mason to make sure you learn the words correctly.
  • When you know the words contact aforementioned Mason to help with floor work.
  • Mix thoroughly and bake at 350 Degrees.
  • When in Lodge for Degree work offer to perform the part or parts that you know.
  • If you want to perform more ritual, learn more parts.
  • Rinse and repeat.

A final thought: Consider each candidate who knocks at the Inner door as your son, brother, father, and then ask yourself what level of ritual performance you would want them to receive.


(9) October 21 - 8:45 PM

*** ***,

Well done, my brother. I think this observation goes a very long way in explaining our Lodge's fantastic response of new members to become involved and show such devotion and interest. They are simply reflecting what we try to put into their experience. It has seemed sort of illusive to us who were on the inside. It took a young man who was coming through the door to show us the simplicity of the success.

Please express my gratitude to young brother ***** the next time you see him. And let him know that it has inspired at least one person to strive for perfection at every opportunity in the ritual.

name deleted


(10) October 22 - 2:05 AM

****** ***** *** : Forgive me if I used an erroneous form of address. I still haven't learn the differences in ** and **.

Brother ****** has exhibited great insight into one of my most painful embarrassments when I attend Lodge. The informality and horseplay in open lodge in this jurisdiction borders on the ridiculous. Also, I am guilty of not being proficient in this ritual and am very uncomfortable participating in degree work here. I am trying to master the memorization of the ritual but am having a very difficult time doing so. I have always had problems memorizing but it became much more difficult since my Stroke * years ago. That being said, the last time I participated in degree work here I was nothing short of terrible and it made me feel terrible and sorry for the candidate. I will no longer willingly participate in the degrees until I do know the ritual word for word. Additionally, even knowing the rote of the ritual, I will need to master the expression of it. Having studied acting and being somewhat knowledgeable in the expressive arts, I know that being able to say the correct words is not enough.

Brother ****** is also very courageous. I think he knew that expressing himself in this fashion he was opening himself up for a great deal of personal criticism a la "Hoo does he think he is?","He is new, what does he know?" etc.

I was not present at that communication, but I have witnessed enough to know that the description of what followed his initiation is true and accurate. Possibly a little understated.

I am looking forward to meeting him. I hope that by the time he is raised I will be proficient in a role and be able to honorably participate in his raising.

Your request illicited from him such a thoughtful response after experiencing the 1st degree. I wonder how he is going to respond after hearing the Masonic Code read in Lodge before the 3rd Degree.

Fraternally and Respectfully,

name deleted


October 23 - 10:29 AM - reply to (10)

****** ****** ** ,

Thank you for a very thoughtful and positive e-mail. I have forwarded your thoughts to ***** and I'm sure he will appreciate it. You are absolutely right. The informality and horseplay has gotten out of hand. It's beyond me how anyone can pay any attention at all to the words that are spoken in our Degrees and behave the way we do.

I appreciate your determination to learn the ritual and if I can be of any assistance whatever please don't hesitate to call on me.

I look forward to introducing you and *****. He is a fine young man and Mason.

Fraternally yours,

name deleted


(11) October 22 - 6:48 AM

My sentiments exactly, however with furthur maturing in his masonic teachings, he will undoubtedly find that leaniency needs to be made for the older generations senior moments, and the lack of interest of newly made brethren to learn the correct ritual, and to take an active part in the daily proceedings of their lodges. All of the ritual is made available, and supported by the Grand Lodge and its appointed representitives, a thankless job admittedly but a very necessary and usually effective one.

Yours in the Faith,

name deleted


October 22 - 1:06 PM - reply to (11)

***** ***** ,

I agree that with time and experience his observations will undoubtedly mellow. However, I think his lack of experience is exactly why he can paint such a clear picture of what other novices may be perceiving. He has expressed his observations and feelings from an objective viewpoint without forming previous alliances or prejudices. I don't think his intention was to be critical or judgmental, but to openly express the way we may be perceived by those who enter for the first time. Perception in life is everything and I think we need to ask ourselves how we want to be perceived, not only by the newly initiated but by the public in general. We know we are good guys with the best intentions, but is that what others see?

I know I am preaching to the choir here. Your ritual is first rate, and I personally appreciate the work and effort you put into keeping it so. Unfortunately, making the ritual available doesn't seem to be enough. We need to find a way to make it important. I would appreciate any suggestions you might have on how we can do that.

Take care Brother and I hope to see you soon.

name deleted


(12) October 22 - 9:36 AM

Brother *** ****- Sir;

There is no question in my mind that the EA experience sits a lasting tone as well as a mindset to that environment. Something else that I noticed which has always had a disheartening glow..,along with what appears as insincerity is the "grab-butt" right in front of the alter, Holy Bible and all. As we know that this is not the same in all lodge halls. For myself and my PhD.d in optimism would like to think that the lackadaisical attitude will cure itself, and soon. I've heard some WMs express the same concerns, and have started action already. And perhaps if this was mentioned more often in meetings.

In all due Respect - name deleted


(13) October 22 - 10:41 AM - forwarded response

The degradation of the ritual, is in my opinion the direct result of what this EA was involved in! One candidate one night, not four. That is/would be a strain on any one persons mental capacity, and drives away qualified people that could otherwise help put on a perfect degree. The time when a candidate is initiated is a most solemn time for reflection, education, and celebration. I believe that we should show our newly ,made brethren more respect than to herd them through something like cattle.

this is the final draft I tried to send it to him but it came back bad address lolololol I wish I could send this to everyone he sent that %^!!$#@! to Talk later hope to see you at ******

no name given


(14) October 22 - 2:53 PM

Wow.

***, thank you for sharing this story. We know how Lodge goes, and sometimes we are too lax, undoubtedly. This fine man has shared his experiences on both sides, what he got, and what he saw.

I suspect that our practice is not as hard on the ritual as our flip attitude, amplifying the mistakes that were made. Sort of a "cover up" of laughter. It's been too many years, but still I remember the reverence with which some of the old timers did the ritual work.

It's fine to have fun, but not at the expense of a future brother's degree work.

I myself plan to try much harder. And I also very much look forward to sitting in Lodge with *****. He impressed me that night, and I hope to conduct myself in Lodge in a manner that will make him proud of his choice of Lodges.

name deleted


(15) October 24 - 11:45 PM

***,

This was a very sobering observation. I paraphrased this message to the members of the Lodge last night before we proceeded to confer two 2nd Degrees. I think that the Brethren took it to heart and while we did stumble, we observed a level of solemnity much higher than in the past.

****** Lodge #*** AF&AM would like to express its thanks to the newly initiated EA for his candid and well-timed reminder of what we as Masonry are about.

Thank you again for forwarding the comments. They did not fall on deaf ears in ******!

Fraternally,

name, lodge name and number deleted


(16) October 28 - 7:59 AM

Addendum to Observations of an EA

Not only was I elated, but somehow apprehensive as well on this keen and candid observation of a newly obligated brother. And for this, he should be commended for an intelligent assessment of his perception of what to expect from the Craft. Obviously he anticipated something more solemn, meaningful or dignified, but evidently he got something less than what he bargained for. Certainly, his dissertation was meant as a challenge to senior Masons. As such we should take it as one as we have nobody to blame but ourselves as we have been remiss in our duties as Masons.

We should always bear in mind that one of the ends of Masonry is light, and light is said to be akin to intelligence and knowledge. And as we continuously travel from West to East it is implied that Masonry has an educational function, ergo the need for frequent Masonic Education and Schools of Instructions, which has not been given much prominence as that to conferring of degrees. It seems that some members get the wrong idea that there is nothing worthwhile going on unless there are degrees to be conferred. Thus, to others the Lodge maybe regarded as nothing more than a degree factory. And a Lodge that emphasizes more on conferring degrees are usually the ones that have dismal attendance in Stated or Special Communications. Consequently, the problem of quality members.

The Lodge not only needs to be careful in the choice of members but likewise the need for more care, attention and guidance for the members after they have been elected. It has always been inculcated to us that Freemasonry is not an association of the average. It considers a body of picked men of certain distinctive qualifications of those who seeks its fellowship and insists that those who are admitted to its mysteries shall be worthy and well qualified. In short, the proficiency/efficiency of Freemasonry depends on the quality of those who are recognized as Masons. Hence, it belongs to us to guard its Ancient Landmarks. But what do men who lack Masonic character & spirit care for the Ancient Landmarks. And here is where I believe lies a problem as well.

The Ancient Landmarks in Freemasonry are “those generally supposed to mean certain universal, unalterable and unrepealable fundamentals which have existed from time immemorial and are so thoroughly a part of Masonry that no Masonic authority may derogate from them or do aught but maintain them”.

Basically, it is strict adherence to what the Ancient Landmarks adopted by this Grand Jurisdiction, the Grand Lodge of ****** AF&AM is what Freemasonry is all about. It is not at all about being proficient, as Proficiency in the Rituals is only secondary. And here is one of the mysteries of our Venerable Fraternity as why the Ancient Landmarks from which Masonic Jurisprudence are derived are rarely expounded or discussed to the initiates.

In our eagerness to be proficient we tend to forget the basic tenets of the Craft. The Lodge is hallowed grounds as it has been consecrated to the GAOTU hence the need for taking things seriously in open Lodge. We should be prepared for the task assigned to us and do our work diligently not halfheartedly as pointed out by Bro. ***** *****.

But one thing that gets my goat is when some brothers uses some other cuss words in open lodge. We should bear in mind the Holy Book is open, and reverence is a must in hallowed grounds. As we go up the higher degrees as in the Scottish Rites we are not only reminded but likewise admonished to always conform to abide by all the Statues of the Craft and we if can’t do it, then we are reprimanded with the parting words of “ You don’t have any business here, You don’t have any business here, You don’t have any business here”.

name deleted


(17) October 31 - 2:02 AM

Brother ***,

I just wanted to write a quick message letting you know that I really enjoyed the "Discussion on the Observations" page that you put up. It's great to see how other masons have responded to the letter. It's understandably quite controversial, but whether the response is good or bad it's great to see brothers who care so deeply about the issue and that to me says a lot! On a personal not I wanted to let you know I really enjoyed response (8) 10/21/2007 - 5:19 PM. I thought it was a well articulated response from someone who obviously knows their stuff and was up front about the problem. What really made me like his response was the fact that he took the approach of "ok we have a problem and here's how we can fix it" because it's on thing to say we have a problem or to get defensive about it, but it's another to remain calm and offer a solution. Anyway those were some of my thoughts for the evening.

name deleted

P.S. I wanted to say how happy and proud I am to be a member of ***** Lodge. Thanks in large part to you and the enthusiastic brethren we, in my eyes, have a great accuracy on our ritual and I have been conferred two flawless degrees. I feel sorry for the person that was mentioned in response 8 about his experience on the third degree, but I have am eagerly awaiting "getting the third degree:)" from our lodge because I have great faith in my brothers. Lastly I would like to say that I wish every man who chose the path of freemasonry and was found to be worthy and well qualified could have the same experience that I've had.

Thanks for your time,