Ego Proficere Et Dabo Operam Caritatis
How jurisdictions differ in the inculcation and dissemination of Freemasonry to brethren across the world is made ever so more apparent when brothers communicate online. On the r/freemasonry subreddit, members can indicate their progress in the degrees via flair attached to their user names. I am u/QuarryFresh and my flair reads as follows: MM, F&AM-CA, 32° SR-SJ. Recently, I was expressing my anticipation about having to return my third degree proficiency. Several brothers expressed surprise, asking how I could join the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite and be a 32° without having to return my third degree proficiency. This is one of those places where jurisdictional differences is problematic. In California (as far as I have come to understand), the third proficiency is not required to return unless a brother seeks an elected position in the lodge.
Once raised, the new Master Mason is not required to demonstrate his proficiency as in the previous degrees, unless he does so in full form. However, he will be barred from holding certain offices in the lodge line: those of master, senior warden, and junior warden. Upon completing his full form Master Mason’s proficiency, the new Master Mason will be provided with either a large warrant or wallet sized card certifying that he has met the statutory requirements and is entitled to all the privileges of a Master Mason. This card is especially handy when traveling to other lodges or jurisdictions, as it helps to immediately establish your Masonic credentials. The fact that you have done the Master Mason proficiency is also recorded in your Grand Lodge personnel fi le for posterity. (Master Mason Candidate Guide, p. 23-24)
I bolded the section in the quote, because in California it is not mandatory to return the first or second proficiencies in full form; they only have to return the obligations. Some brothers seemed to express discomfort with this relaxation in the rules compared to their jurisdiction. I’ve seen some posts speaking to the “progressiveness” of California, as if it was a negative trait. However, I’ve also seen comparisons between California’s “rules” and some other jurisdictions where California seems less “progressive” by contrast. These differences shouldn’t be seen as a matter of “progressive” versus “traditional,” because the traditions of one jurisdiction may be new innovations in another jurisdiction and vice versa. We just need to look at the history of Freemasonry and the differences between the Moderns and Antients, the Southern Jurisdiction and the Northern Jurisdiction of the Scottish Rite in America, and the Mainstream and Prince Hall Masonic traditions.
So, last Thursday night I returned the third degree proficiency at my lodge, and I was lucky enough to be able to return with one of my closest brothers. This made the experience all that more comfortable and memorable. For weeks, we had been practicing together. I was raised in February, but given life’s adventures, I did not begin working on the proficiency until around June. He was raised in August 2014 and due to a grueling college schedule, he had not touched the proficiency at all until we worked together. This situation of mutual mentoring, certainly built a foundation of comradery and a lasting friendship. As our return was scheduled for the week after the stated meeting, the attendance was small, which suited us well. Having fewer brothers in the sidelines relaxed my nerves, and I’m sure his as well. As such, we are certainly thankful to those brothers who were in attendance, but we don’t fault any brothers who weren’t. Afterwards, we celebrated by going to the Whisper House with a couple brothers.
The next night was the stated meeting for Pasadena Scottish Rite. I hadn’t been able to make it to the stated meetings since June, so I made sure I went to this one. It was extremely important for me to be there, as the brother I returned my third with and another brother from my lodge had their petitions read to join, and I was their second-line signer. The brother who brought me into Scottish Rite was also their first-line signer. I was happy to be able to say “Yay” to the accepting of these brothers petition for membership to our Valley, and I look forward to their Reunion in November. Their and my first-line signer requested that I bring them to the Reunion class dates, as he did with me. I told him that I already had planned on it. At the stated meeting, I also signed up to be a lodge ambassador for the VMAP initiative and offered to help put together a Master Craftsman Study Group.
After stated, we went downstairs to the banquet hall for dinner. At dinner, the First Knight of the Knights of St. Andrew told me that their stated meeting was the next morning and that I should come to be squired. I had turned in my application at my Reunion last May, and they had voted to accept me into their ranks. I was told that the KSA was the service arm of the Scottish Rite and the best means to stay active, and to meet and help other brothers and people in general. So, I returned to the Pasadena Cathedral the next morning to attend the KSA stated meeting. I volunteered to help with the upcoming California Masonic Symposium at the Pasadena Scottish Rite Cathedral. I had tickets, so I thought that I might as well help, since I’ll be there already. At the end of the stated meeting, I was squired in an initiation ritual with a brother from my Reunion in May. I’m excited to be a part of a group of brothers who are seeking to serve others through their labor and not just their pocketbook.
Now that I have returned my third degree proficiency, I am eligible for an elected officer position. This is exciting and anxiety-provoking. I am doing my best to put myself in positions that previously made me uncomfortable, as a means to better myself. I usually would never want to be involved in a role that would put me in the spotlight. However, I know this is where I can grow the most. I know that advancing in the line in the Blue Lodge and participating with the KSA will do that.