For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Ying and Yang. Good and evil. Democrats and Republicans. A.F and A.M. and F. and A.M. In New England, there is another division (not just Yankees and Red Sox), powerboat, or sailboat? One of the best descriptions I’ve heard to distinguish these groups are that with a powerboat, you have a destination. Point the boat and go there fast. With a sailboat, you have a destination, but how you get there includes a multitude of potential paths. With either method, currents, wind direction, landscape, all play an important factor. The need to adjust course is almost guaranteed.
Everything we do in life is a journey, especially Masonry. In many jurisdictions these days, you are pushed to the destination. Get through the degree. Multi-degree or degree festivals enable you to get through multiple degrees in one day. Much like formal education, if the diploma is given to you, you may have the credentials, but not the qualification. The recipient can then decide whether they want the check-box, or the education.
When I first told my father about the one-day classes…well, let’s just say he was not a fan. I can certainly understand his perspective, and I’ve met with many a Mason who would agree. However, I’ve known several men that have gone through the one-day class, and they remain to be great Masons. The difference is, these men went back to the work. They studied, learned, and internalized. They certainly didn’t have to, but they saw the value in understanding what they so wistfully went through. With these men, getting a new degree wasn’t the end, it was the foundation on which to build a greater understanding of themselves. The one-day class wasn’t necessarily a short-cut, it was just a different vehicle.
There is certainly a valid argument that proper preparation is needed for each degree. You need the time between the first and second degrees to internalize what you’ve learned. Only then can you be ready to ascend to the next level. When I took the degrees, there was one month between each degree, and I studied. It certainly wasn’t perfect, but I think I did pretty well in my own exemplification. Regardless of how well I knew that ritual, I knew nothing of Masonry or the degrees I was receiving. My own hoodwink wasn’t removed until many years later. I was given the vehicle, but I had no idea where I was going.
I still don’t know where I’m going, but I do know that I’m going somewhere, and the amount of data to consume and attempt to understand is greater than all of my formal education, combined! Freemasonry has taught me that there is always more to learn. Not just within our ritual. Not just within the seven liberal arts and sciences. And not just within our love of one another. With every passing day, hour, and minute…our brains receive another plethora of data points. What we do with that knowledge is the kicker. When the wind shifts or the tides change, the mariner must adjust his course. As we learn more about the craft and our Brothers, don’t be afraid to adjust the course. We may not end up at our original destination, but where we do end up may be more beautiful and amazing than we could have ever imagined the first time we heard those three very important words….’Who comes here?’
Robert Edward Jackson is a Past and presiding Master of Montgomery Lodge located in Milford, MA. His Masonic lineage includes his Father (Robert Maitland), Grandfather (Maitland Garrecht), and Great Grandfather (Edward Henry Jackson), a founding member of Scarsdale Lodge #1094 in Scarsdale, NY. When not studying ritual, he’s busy being a father to his three kids, a husband, Boy Scout Leader, and a network engineer to pay for it all. He can be reached at email@example.com .