This week’s article is a continuation of last’s, what steps you need to take, and the Lodge/Chapter takes, when you join a Masonic organization. This week, I will be discussing the initiation itself. Please know that no secrets will be given away. I will not be going over any of the finer details. The majority of what is secret, is words, phrases, and handshakes so that members can recognize each other outside of the organization. While I do know a couple of secret handshakes, this mode of member recognition has kind of gone to the wayside since the internet. Also, while I will not be going over them here, you can find the entirety of initations online (as well as opening/closing ritual, iniatations, basically everything but the secrets); I do not recommend reading ritual work, especially initations, before receiving the degree, even if you do not plan on joining right away. There’s something magical about the first degree that you receive, and if you know what’s coming, part of that magic is lost.
Alright, so, your petition has been turned in, read, and approved for membership. Now you get to play the waiting game. When you receive the degree will have to be worked into the Lodge/Chapter’s schedule, or they may have to call a special meeting to get it done. Usually, once you receive word that you are approved to receive the degrees, your initation is usually within a month. Please remember that some Lodges/Chapters are “dark” (no meetings) for the summer, so if you apply in late spring, you may not have your initation until early fall. The night of, you will want to dress conservatively, it’s always better to be overdressed when getting initated, since you will be the focal point of the meeting. If you are joining an OES Chapter, I do not recommend wearing heels, as there is a lot of walking; you will want to be in comfortable shoes. This is also true for other Masonic bodies that meet in very large Lodge rooms.
You will of course, want to arrive a few minutes early. This is for a few reasons. In many organizations, you may have to wear a cloth or other clothing over what you are wearing. This clothing has symbolic meaning for the degree, or story, you are about to hear. The Lodge/Chapter will open, while you wait outside. This does not take too terribly long (about ten minutes), but does add to the anticipation. When joining a Lodge, they may ask you to stay in a room of reflection, which is usually a plain room, with a chair, and you are alone with your thoughts. They may or may not give you a thinking prompt while you wait. Usually, a member of the organization is tasked with waiting with you, and may explain a bit about what is to happen.
Someone will come and get you when it is time. Depending on the organization, you may be blindfolded, or “hoodwinked” before you enter the Lodge room. When joining other organizations, the lights may simply be dimmed. As I said before, I will not (and cannot) go into details, but each Masonic organization follows the same general sequence of events. After being brought into the Lodge room, the Worshipful Master/Worthy Matron/Queen/etc., will ask if you come of your own free will, and sometimes if you believe in a higher power. You may get asked more questions, but your buddy will coach you through this beforehand. Once you are granted access to the Lodge room, you will be lead around to (most) all of the officers, and important points in the room. Eventually, you will end up in front of the altar.
This is one of the most important parts of the initation- the obligation. You will be asked to kneel if you are able, and place your hand upon the Bible, or other faith book of your choosing. You will then take a binding oath, that contains a couple of things, both that you swear to do, and not do. It is mostly things like, swearing to not divulge any secrets that you learn during your initation or any other meeting to a non member, that you will help a member in need, etc. The obligation does not include anything that is difficult to do, and really, anything that you probably wouldn’t do anyway. There is an important part, that many people against Masonry choose to ignore; you swear that will not Masonry to insult, jepordize, or have any other negative effect on your religion and family; or break any laws of your state or nation. Some Masons forget this part of the obligation as well, and choose to let Masonry run and eventually ruin their lives, marriages, and familes.
Something that definitely does not happen during degree work
The next section is where the degree is actually given, also known as conferred. Each group has their own specifics, but the general concept is the same. The person that led you around the room earlier will lead you again. This time you will be pausing to hear different stories, or different parts of the same story from some officers in the room. These stories are the foundation of Masonry. Do your best to listen to them as closely as you can, but it is unlikely that you will get everything during your degrees. This is a good reason to participate in doing degrees for others; you will remember things that didn’t quite get processed the first time around. OES, Daughters of the Nile, and a few others, tell many stories with a central theme. Groups like Blue Lodge and Scottish Rite, on the other hand, tell one story, that continues on throughout all of the degrees. If you are able, do read the degree work after you have received it, doing so will help you learn more about the building blocks of Masonry.
The final step, is to show you the secrets. As I’ve said above, the large majority of these are methods of recognition of members outside of regular group activities. If you are joining Blue Lodge, the majority of these will be given during the Master Mason degree. After that, you will be escorted to a seat on the side of the room, and any business that still needs to be conducted is. The night that I was initated, I actually got to vote right afterwards. After the Lodge/Chapters close, prepare for everyone to come and congradulate you. That evening, or soon after, you will be presented with your copy of the ritual book, and, at least in Blue Lodge and OES, the book of faith you swore your obligation on.
Even kitties want to join Masonic bodies!
And really, that’s it. While the core of an initiation is really quite simple, all of the details make it complex. All (most?) Lodges and Chapters require memorization of parts, as an open ritual book is not allowed in an open Lodge/Chapter. These parts can range to a paragraph or two, up to more than ten pages. A lot of work goes into initiating a candidate, although most of it is not done by the candidate. Relish the day that you are initated, as you only get to be on the receiving end once. They are often deep and thought provoking, more so than most people expect.
Hopefully these last two weeks have help ease minds, and perhaps even push a few people to join this week. Usually the scariest part is not knowing. If you have any questions about this, or any other Masonic topic, feel free to contact me here, or at firstname.lastname@example.org If not, have a great week!