5 Simple Tips to help improve your Masonic Education Experience
As you already know, the stability of a building is dependent on the strength of its foundation. Similarly, the educational foundation of every newly-initiated Mason is equally as important to their growth and progression through life. I have seen many Brothers who, soon after being accommodated in the North East corner of the Lodge, are anxious to rush through the Degrees of Craft Masonry. They are anxious to get through their memory work, to quickly get started learning what the York Rite, the Scottish Rite or any other Appendant Body of Freemasonry has to offer. Unfortunately, not all Brothers have the privilege of discovering the many levels of education within the Three Degrees of Craft Masonry and that by rushing through them, they are leaving on the table an inexhaustible amount of information that could strengthen their foundation.Here are 3 Simple Tips you could implement today in your Lodge, to make sure that Brothers gain a better appreciation for the wealth of information and experience that is at their service, if they take the time to dig deeper.
Tip #1: Meeting Regularly
In the united states, it is common that there is a stated meeting every other week. For ease of explanation, I will use my Lodge as an example. My Lodge has stated communications (regular meetings) the first and third Tuesday of every month. This gives us the chance to schedule Masonic Education Nights on the Second and Fourth Tuesdays of the Month, in addition to our regularly-scheduled stated communications.
What are the benefits of doing this?
The first benefit is consistency. For the Brothers who are married or have variable schedules at work, your spouse or boss will know that on Tuesday Nights, you have a commitment. It is clearly easier to answer, Is today tuesday? than to answer, is today the third Tuesday of the month?
The second benefit of implementing the consistency of weekly meetings, is that there is always something to work towards. In some of the Lodges that I have seen implementing this technique, on the Masonic Education Night, they help brothers with their Memory Work. If there is an upcoming Degree, the Brothers can practice and help one another to improve upon their roles.
Finally, the benefit of Fellowship and Brotherly Love. In today’s busy world, we often lose track of the importance of having regular diversions or interactions with our friends and Brothers. Having this weekly meeting, gives you an opportunity to know your Brothers better and solidify your relationships.
Tip #2: Distinction between Instructor and Mentor
Let’s face it, there is a lot to learn through the study of the Three Degrees in Freemasonry. The amount of memory work can be a little intimidating. However, by ensuring that there is a separation of roles between the Instructor and the Mentor, the newly initiated Brother has two experienced Brothers to help him in this task. First, let’s define the roles of the Instructor and the Mentor.
The instructor is that Brother who will assist the the newly-initiated Brother in learning his Memory work. He is the one to share techniques on how to better go through the material and memorize it. He will provide the technical feedback what is the best method to learn the lessons of the Craft and how to recall them when it is time to prove proficiency before the Craft.
The instructor will also be the person to meet in the lodge room with the Brother, shortly after his initiation, to refresh his memory of everything that went through and help him remember the sequence of events which took place. I have seen this step being ignored too often, to the detriment of the instruction process. The importance of this exercise is that our brains are able to recall information more easily when provided with context. Basically, our brain will create connections between the information being received and the feedback from the different senses. For example, it is easier for a Brother to remember the words that he heard, if he creates a connection with the place in which he first heard those words. Have you ever written down in a notebook and later tried to visualize where in the page those notes are written in order to effectively recall the information? The same principle applies to the memorization of the Catechism or Degree Work.
The role of the Mentor is one of esoteric guidance. According to the Grand Lodge of Florida (USA) “The
The mentor becomes the person who helps the Brother unravel the mysteries concealed within the Degree work.
It is understandable that in some cases, due to the unavailability of Brothers with the flexibility to become mentors, both roles of Instructor and Mentor will be played by a single individual. In this case, it is advised that the Brother taking on this dual responsibility maintains a good balance between the two roles. But as much as possible, it is recommended that these two roles are kept separate, for the benefit of the new Brother and the quality of his education.
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Tip #3: Place a Blueprint on the Trestleboard
In operative masonry it was common for the Master Builder to gather his workers and present them with their daily tasks, by placing the plans on a trestleboard. This helped the group of builders to begin their labor with a common understanding of what was expected of each one of them.
Similarly, In the early days of their journey in Freemasonry, the newly-initiated Brothers can be presented with a blueprint of the various education programs in which they should participate. This gives each Brother a step by step guide which will suggest a path of study that can give them a more complete masonic education.
It is common for Grand Lodges and Individual Districts to put together Masonic Education workshops and programs. However, considering the overwhelming amount of information the Brothers are constantly receiving, they might miss these opportunities.
There is much more to Masonic Education than to simply go through the Degrees and sit through the reading of the minutes. There are many opportunities to further your education before seeking further Light in other appendant bodies of Freemasonry. Clearly, the information contained within the higher Degrees is very valuable and can help an individual to grow immensely; However, if a new Brother is prematurely focused in joining these worthy Orders, he might not be taking full advantage of the knowledge that is available through the initiatic Degrees of Craft Masonry.
For example, The Grand Lodge of Florida has organized very useful programs to help Brothers further their Masonic Education beyond what is contained within the Degrees. The Digest of Masonic Law of Florida has a vast amount of information that can help each Brother be better educated, more resourceful when seeking Light and a better leader, if He decides to become a Lodge Officer.
A great source of Light and Guidance is the District School of Instruction. This is where the District Instructor helps Brothers find the resources to become better men, better Masons and better Lodge Officers. During these meetings, usually held twice a month, Brothers can practice for degrees, work to perfect their memorization of rituals and get to know what their next step will be in their Masonic Education.
Tip #4: Progressive Participation in exemplification of Degrees
There are those who learn by reading and those who learn by doing. Nowhere is this more evident within the Lodge, than through the practice and exemplification of the Degrees. When I joined Freemasonry, I wanted to understand all the various roles that participated in the conferral of the Degrees. I was fortunate to be invited to participate in an upcoming Entered Apprentice Degree and attend several practice meetings for the preparation of said event. I learned so much during those practice meetings, that I could not get enough of it. I quickly figured out that, if I volunteered to participate in as many Degrees as my work and family would allow, my assimilation of the ritual would run much more smoothly.
I was right! My first participation after being initiated was as a Junior Steward. Shortly thereafter, I participated as a Senior Steward. So on and so forth, progressing through the chairs of the Degree, by the time it was my turn to sit in the East during a Degree, I felt prepared. My first time sitting in the East was to open the Lodge in the F:.C:. Degree and I felt comfortable with the fact that my Degree Team and I had prepared sufficiently to make it a memorable exemplification of the Degree.
Think of this, the candidate or Brother for whom you will be participating in the Degree, deserves your utmost dedication to put together a Degree that is as close to perfect as possible. Remember, they will never again go through it from that point of view and you are solely responsible for the level of quality of your role during the Degree. By committing to demand excellence of yourself in the preparation and execution of the Degree, you are giving your fellow Brother a gift of dedication and quality, which he might never forget.
In conclusion, by actively and progressively participating in the various roles available during the Degrees, you ensure that you will learn the information more effectively, but also create a memorable experience for those who come after you.
Tip #5: Travel, Travel, Travel...
This is a very important tip, especially to enhance the quality of your experience through Freemasonry. Why? Because you will meet so many Brothers, Learn so many Lessons and live through so many Experiences that you wouldn’t otherwise if you merely attended to your own Lodge. When you travel, you actively engage in discussions with other Brothers, regarding Masonic Topics.
For example, due to increased business and family commitments, for the past few years I have been unable to travel to other lodges as much as I would like. But I recently had an opportunity to join my Brothers for a study session one Saturday Morning. I came out with so much more than I expected. I got the benefit of seeing Brothers, whom I have not seen in a long time. We had very lively and informative conversations that furthered my understanding of several rituals and practices.
I also met some new Brothers and was able to learn from their unique perspective. If I had not visited that Lodge, I would have missed out on the opportunity to grow in my Masonic Education just a little.
Finally, when you travel to various lodges, you get to see what works for them and what things you can implement in your own lodge. You can be inspired by the quality of the things which are unique to that lodge and could potentially learn from any mistakes you see.