Maxima enim, patientia virtus
To become a Mason, all you have to do is ask a Mason. So, if you’re reading this because you’re on your own journey and you’re wondering what to do to take that next step, there it is. Just ask. The journey you take is yours. It is all on you. They will not come to you. They will not ask you if you want to join. But, they will be there when you are ready, I promise.
This is the story of my journey. Thus far, I have presented a brief pre-Masonic history of myself, if you will. My Masonic history truly began when I petitioned to join the Claremont Masonic Lodge. For those who are not aware, you need to have two members of the lodge you are petitioning sign for you. That is, they should know you well enough to vouch for your character. What this means is that if you don’t know anyone in the lodge and you want to join that lodge, you better go to that lodge and meet some people, which is exactly what I did. I spent time getting to know the brothers and letting them get to know me.
I came to lodge each Thursday in August and sat in the hall while lodge was held. Sometimes a visiting brother would hang out with me, but sometimes I sat alone. This was a great exercise in patience. I wanted to be there before lodge began, so that I could greet as many brothers as possible, and I wanted to be there when it ended so that I could be a part of the fraternizing that occurred post-lodge. One of the reasons I chose the Claremont Lodge was because of the fraternizing I witnessed in my visits. Also, it is one of two lodges in California that has a bar, although no alcohol can be stored onsite overnight per Grand Lodge rules.
On August 29, 2014, I hung out in the hall while one of the brothers was was raised to the Sublime Degree of Master Mason, and I was there to witness the procession from the lodge following the degree. This brother and I seemed to click right away, having many of the same views in life. We became fast friends and when I turned my petition in on September 4, 2014, he was my second line signer. My first line signer was the first person I ever communicated with at the Claremont Lodge, the former Worshipful Master who had given me the open invitation over 2 years prior. He told me that he never re-contacted me, because he knew that I would come around when I was ready. He became a great inspiration for me as I moved forward in my Masonic journey.
The process is not a quick one, nor should it be. If you are not a patient person, trying to rush through every step, then you’re likely not going to be a very good Mason or at least not get out of Masonry what you could. More than one of the brothers told me, “What you get out of Freemasonry depends on what you put into it.” When you become a Mason, it’s for life, and what you’re putting into it is time. The more time you spend on it, the better you will become, as man, husband, father, and as a Mason. It is all dependent on you.
That being said, the petition is read at the stated meeting (usually the first meeting of the month). It is accompanied by a payment that covers the degree fees, books, and background check. Only good men can become Masons. Freemasonry cannot make bad men good. There are really only two things you need to have to become a Mason: a clear criminal record (no felonies or crimes of moral turpitude) and a belief in God (whatever God that may be). These must be professed in your petition (and verified). If the brethren are in favor, which they generally are, unless they don’t know you from Adam, then they assign an investigation committee.
The committee usually consists of three brothers who have a series of questions they must ask and return to the lodge. I know this seems scary, but for me it was actually quite enjoyable. I only know of two of my investigators, as one must have secretly interrogated me at some time without revealing himself. The other two had lunch with me on two separate occasions. The first was my second signer. We went to Rounds for burgers. He asked me the questions, and then we went to my place and played a game, or something. My second investigator was a brother I had met only on occasion. He took me to the Red Hill Country Club. I was quite nervous, but he made me feel at ease. Since then, I have become quite fond of him, considering him a mentor and a friend, but more on that later.
If the investigation is completed in time for the next stated meeting and the report is favorable, then the brethren put it to a vote. This is where the term blackballed comes from, as in so and so was blackballed from such and such. The brethren each choose either a white ball or black ball (or cube at my lodge) in an anonymous vote. If no black balls appear, the vote is favorable and your initiation will be scheduled on the Trestleboard.
My initiation was scheduled for October 30, 2014. I asked my second line signer and the lodge secretary, if there was anything I needed to do to prepare. They both said no, I just needed to be there. However, I was told that if I wanted to I could find all the degrees, all the info for them, even watch them online, but if I really wanted to get the most out of the experience, I wouldn’t look anything up and just let it happen to me. I had some knowledge years ago from reading the Knight and Lomas’ books, but it had been so long that they were just vague concepts. Rather than brushing up, I chose to take that advice and just let the degree happen to me.
That was the best thing I could have done. I recommend that every man considering becoming a Mason do the same. The visceral experience will be all the more exciting, if you do not know what is coming. After completing the initiation, you may be assigned a coach or given a time when you can meet with coaches to learn the proficiency for the degree. The proficiency is like a standardized measure of knowledge of the degree you had just taken. It is presented orally in front of the lodge. Some people complete it in a week while others can take years. I returned my proficiency for the first degree two weeks after being initiated.
My first line signer said I was on the fast track. He likened my speed, not to impatience, but to a desire to learn. I read everything they gave me (i.e., the books written by the Grand Lodge concerning the Entered Apprentice degree). I found several Masonic texts on my kindle, including some free ones by Mackey, Pike, and Wilmshurst. I hungered for knowledge, thirsting for more light. However, I did not read anything beyond the first degree for fear I would ruin the next. Luckily, I did not have to wait long, as my Fellowcraft degree was scheduled on December 11, 2014.
After passing to the second degree, I immediately read all the materials given me by the lodge and all the parts of the books on the Kindle I had yet to read. I also worked through the proficiency for the degree, but a little slower this time. The lodge was going to be dark for rest of December and early January, so I had time. When I returned my second-degree proficiency on February 5, 2015, I was already scheduled to receive my third three weeks later. I truly was on a fast track, but only so, because I engrossed myself with Freemasonry. I did what I do best. I became a student.