Masonic Education

You might have noticed that there was no post last week, you didn’t miss it, it just wasn’t there. I started nursing school last week, and needed a bit of a break from the additional work from The Mason’s Lady. So what does this mean for you? Sadly, I will be switching to posts every other week, instead of once a week while I am in school for the next few years. There will certainly be times when I am able to post more often. This should mean that the posts are that much more awesome!

Since school has started for myself, and for pretty much every school age child out there, I figured I would talk about a topic that was relevant to the time of year – Masonic education.

An EA tracing board

History of Masonic Education

Back in the day, with both speculative and operative Masonry, it was through the brotherhood that the young man received much of his education. Within operative Masonry, that is, stone cutters and building-builders, becoming a Mason meant literally becoming an Entered Apprentice; this is how he would learn his craft, and when he had mastered the craft and was able to take his own apprentices, he was called a Master Mason.

When speculative Masonry, or Freemasonry as we know it today, came about, formal education past a certain age was only for those who were extremely rich or talented. However, when a young man was able to become a Mason, the group made sure that he was not without education. During the Fellowcraft degree, there is a lengthy (I believe about 13 pages) lecture called the middle chamber lecture. It is here that the brother receives his formal, yet nontraditional education. The topics covered in the middle chamber lecture include: Order in Architecture – Tuscan, Doric, Ionic, Corinthian, and Composite; The Five Senses of Human Nature – Hearing, Seeing, Feeling, Smelling and Tasting; and The Seven Arts and Sciences – Grammar, Rhetoric, Logic, Arithmetic, Geometry, Music, and Astrology.Many of these topics now seem common sense to us, but remember that (for the most part), this is the same lecture given to candidates since the 1700’s.

Another important item used in Masonic education were tracing boards (note, these are different from trestle boards, as T and I discovered). Initially, these were chalk drawings on the floor or table where the Lodge met. Before the degree, or during, various Masonic symbols or emblems were drawn by the Worshipful Master or Tyler. These were used to make reference to during the degrees, a symbol being pointed to at the appropriate time in the degree. These were then mopped up or wiped away by the candidate afterwards, to help remind him of his oath to secrecy. After print became more readily available, permanent tracing boards were made. The symbols included often range from degree to degree, and Lodge to Lodge. They have since fallen out of favor.

Mason Busters showing us why Masonic Education is important

Mason Busters showing us why Masonic Education is important

Masonic Education Today

Masonic education has come a long way. A candidate no longer relies solely on the education provided during the degrees, in fact, for most people the information given is a nice review of the third grade. As I said before, tracing boards have fallen out of favor, and slowly, but surely, Lodges are beginning to add technology to their Lodges, and some use power points or short animations instead.

The internet is teeming with Masonic information, some correct, and some not so much. A word of advice: take everything you read about Masonry online with a grain of salt; although you can find all of the degree work online, it will mean so much more to you if you don’t know what’s coming when you receive them.

As far as websites are concerned, you’d might imagine that is going to have a bit of a bias when discussing Masonry. Here are some websites that I’ve found that seem to know what they’re talking about:

However, since Masonry seems to always be slow to get with the times, your best bet for education is always books.

One of the best things you can do for yourself, and for Freemasonry, is to educate yourself about it.After you drop the kids off at school, take the time to pick up a book yourself, even if its just for a few minutes. Get out there and learn!

History of the Installation of Officers

These next few weeks may be a small deviation from what you’ve come to expect from The Mason’s Lady. I am dealing with some health issues that make it hard to sit down and write for lengths of time. Because of this, I will be writing mini articles instead, for instance, the article for this week and next was originally to be one. Hopefully we will be back to regularly scheduled programming shortly.

January is a very popular month for installation of officers. In Nebraska, we use the calendar year as our Masonic year, so any officer’s term is from January to the next January. All officer terms all for a full year, regardless of when the installation occurs. Other common months for installation are June and July.

Installation of an officer

What exactly is an installation? How does it differ from an initiation

An installation is basically the swearing in of the officers for the year. Think of it kind of like when the president takes his oath. The officers take an oath, are given the jewels of their respective offices, and then we eat cake. Look next week for more about what actually goes on during an installation. Often, installations are public, meaning that anyone, Mason or not, can attend. If you have the opportunity, I would recommend that you go. Initiation on the other hand, is when someone becomes a member of the fraternity, when someone actually becomes a Mason, and takes the degrees. An initiation always closed, meaning that only Masons of a certain degree may attend.

Old school cool

What is the history of the installation ceremony?

The history of the installation ceremony is very unique, because before the formation of the United Grand Lodge of England in 1717, there is no mention of any kind of ceremony for installing officers. The Worshipful Master was elected, but there was no ceremony after the election.  The ceremony first came about in 1722, when the Duke of Wharton, who was the Grand Master of UGLE at the time, decided that when a new Lodge was formed, they must also have an installation of the first Worshipful Master. The rest of the proclamation from the Duke laid out the foundation for the ceremony. Throughout the years, the ceremony was adapted to include the rest of the officers, which is what we still use today.

If you’d like to read more about the history of the installation ceremony, check out Volume 18, issue 4 of the September 2008 magazine The Lectern. You can read it here: The Lectern.

That’s all for now, I apologize for it being short but sweet. Next week we will be looking at exactly what happens during an installation. If you have any questions about officer positions, you can check out this post.

The Morgan Affair

We are back from Grand Lodge, and hiding from the snow storm in our footie pj’s watching the Olympics. We had a blast, I am so glad that I went, and I can’t wait to attend again next year! Yesterday morning, I was lucky enough to attend the Masonic Education Breakfast. Once I heard about the topic, I knew that I had to attend, and shot an email to the Grand Lodge office to make sure that it was alright for me to attend. Luckily, there was no issue; I was, however, the only female in the room, not that bothers me any.

Time for some masonic education!

In the early 1820′s, there were two political parties, the federalists and the democratic-republicans. Neither parties really had any sort of political platform like we know today, it was mostly, “vote for this guy because we like this guy”.  At this time, masons were kind of big deal. In larger cities, like Rochester, New York, all (or at least most), of the cops, judges, and other government officials were masons. This made it very easy to get whomever they wanted elected, with great party slogans encouraging them to effectively, keep it between brethren. Things like this can get out of control very easily. Human beings are greedy, and even a small amount of power can show a man’s true colors.

During this time, a man showed up in Rochester, by the name of William Morgan. He came to a lodge, stating that he had been initiated at a lodge in Canada, but could not produce a dues card. As I think many men would still now, someone agreed to vouch for him. He began attending lodge on a regular basis, and being fairly proficient at ritual work, he traveled from lodge to lodge performing rituals where requested. He was paid for his work, although he mostly relied on brethren to house him during his travels. At this point he has still not produced a dues card, or an alternate confirmation that he was, in fact, a mason. He received a Royal Arch degree (considered one of the most sacred secret works at the time), the only degree that can be confirmed that he did receive.

After receiving the Royal Arch degree, he wanted to charter a petition for a Royal Arch Chapter in Batavia, he was denied. He did sign the petition. At this time, other masons were starting to question his regularity (whether or not he was actually a mason), and they took his name off of the petition. Understandably, he was pretty upset about this, and threatened to write a book exposing all of the masonic secrets. This was a much bigger deal back then, since one could not just google a large portion of the masons secret works. He went as far as obtaining a copyright for the book, and did begin writing a manuscript.He entered a contract with three men, David Miller, John Davids, and Russel Dyer to publish the book.

Morgan was kind of drunk. As you know from experience, drunk people don’t keep their mouth shut very well. He began boasting around town about how awesome his book was going to be, and how he was going to show all of the masons that shut him out. The local masons quickly heard word about his “expose”, and the more that he bragged about it, the more worried they became. In September of 1826, William Morgan was arrested for stealing a shirt and tie. He was acquitted, but re-arrested for failing to pay his $3 debt, and thrown in jail. Someone paid his debt, but he did not leave jail alone.

He was, in fact, kidnapped by three masons, Chesebro, Lawson and Sawyer. What happened after they left gets a little fuzzy. One story states that they took him to Niagara Falls, gave him $500, told him to return to Canada and never come back to the United States. Another, that a body was found, and identified as Morgan by his widow, in Niagara River about a month later. Interestingly, this man was clean-shaven, while Morgan kept a beard, and had a full head of hair, while Morgan was bald. A Canadian woman, claimed this body to be her husband, Timothy Monroe. Years later, more “confessions” of his murder surfaced, none of which were consistent with the facts. It is possible that he escaped, although perhaps more likely, he was killed by overzealous masons who felt that they were just in protecting their secrets.

After all of this, Miller published Morgan’s manuscript, and it was an instant best seller. The public were made very uneasy by the masons after this expose. Morgan was made a symbol of free press and free speech. Protests and riots occurred in New York. Masonic officials denied that masons had any connection to Morgan’s disappearance, but the damage was done. A man by the name of Thurlow Weed created the Anti-Masonic party, the United States’ first third-party.

Could something like this happen again? Perhaps. I think that if masonry once again has a golden age, where everyone you know is a mason, that level of zealotry and arrogance could arise again. The internet changes things, yes, but not as much as we might like to believe. I think that it is a reminder to keep ourselves in check, and the importance of stepping back from a situation and taking a second look at it before making a major decision. It is also a reminder of how we are all only human, and emotions can get the better of us, especially when someone threatens people or ideas that we hold close.  Another interesting, similar situation happened in the 1970′s, called P2, but that is for another day.