Saturday, July 19, 2008

Initiation: The Degree of Entered Apprentice

My initiation as an Entered Apprentice Mason took place at the Masonic Temple on the evening of July 17, 2008. Having done a considerable amount of research on Freemasonry, I more or less knew what to expect. Perhaps that is partly why I wasn't really nervous—but I'm sure that had more to do with the warm fellowship and encouragement I received from all the members of the lodge prior to the start of the ceremony.

I'm not going to discuss any of the details of the ritual and ceremony involved in my initiation to the first degree of Masonry. Anyone reading this can do a Google search and find out the basic details of all three Masonic degrees. Keep in mind, however, that no matter what you read on the Internet, in books, or see in TV documentaries about Freemasonry, each Masonic jurisdiction will have slight differences in the detail of the ritual involved in each of the three degrees. This I quickly discovered during my initiation as an Entered Apprentice.

I will say that while everything about the ritual and ceremony was solemn and serious, the members of this lodge have a good time and enjoy "doing Masonry." They all evinced a joy about introducing someone new to the mysteries of Freemasonry. From the "education" I was given before the meeting started, to the dinner afterward, everyone seemed genuinely happy to have me joining their fraternity. All in all, it was an enjoyable and meaningful experience.

Unlike in some jurisdictions, the "memory work" required to proceed to the second degree at this lodge is done the "old fashioned" way, i.e., it's all given verbally. There is nothing in writing which the Entered Apprentice can study. He can't take notes. He can't record anything. He has to learn all the required material by a give and take verbal exchange with his "coach," who in my case is the Master of the lodge. Once the coach is confident the new brother has memorized the material and can proficiently recite it by memory, the meeting to "pass" the Entered Apprentice to the degree of Fellow Craft is scheduled. In South Carolina, an Entered Apprentice cannot pass sooner than 28 days from his initiation.

My memory work began July 18, the day after my initiation. After about an hour of working with my coach I was able to recite from memory (almost perfectly) about 25% of the material I have to learn. I will meet with my coach once or twice a week until I can recite it all, perfectly, from memory. Once I can do that, I'll have to do it in open lodge before all the brothers. Only then will I be allowed to pass to the second degree.

It is my plan to be ready to take the second degree as soon as the required 28 days have passed.

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