Monday, September 17, 2007

After I Knocked

My decision was made so I contacted the Grand Lodge of Connecticut via their website. I have to admit that this was a bit intimidating, only because other than what I had read (and that was allot) I had no contact with anyone who was actually a Freemason. Those conspiracy websites do impart a little ominous feeling, no matter how crazy their arguments are. So, coupled with my active imagination I was a little nervous when I hit the submit button.

I followed a trail of emails that I was c.c.'d on, from the Grand lodge on downward until I was contacted by a couple of lodges who wanted to set up a meeting with me. The lodge I had driven by and was intending on joining, was not one of the respondents to my query, but the other lodge in my city cordially invited me to come over one night and meet a few of the brothers.

I recognized the lodge building from having driven past it many times without much as a second glance. It was not quite as impressive architecturally as the other one in my city, but it was the one who contacted me. When I arrived I was greeted by three middle aged men who warmly welcomed me and ushered me into their lodge. This being my first time inside of a lodge, I was impressed with the grandeur of the interior. It contained ornate wood chairs and benches with blue cushions, banners and other masonic stuff with a look of dignified antiquity. They brought me to the East and we all sat down on a bench to the right of the Oriental Chair. They asked me about myself and my interest in the fraternity. I explained my situation, and they explained to me allot of stuff that I had already read about the fraternity. When I asked about the other lodge in town, the one that I had driven by and was obsessed with, they explained that it was a fine lodge and that many in their lodge were also members of that lodge and vice-versa. After we finished talking, they presented me with a petition and a informative pamphlet about Freemasonry. The man who had contacted me and led the meeting, turned out to be the Worshipful Master of the lodge and explained to me that I could petition whichever lodge I chose, and no matter where I decided to go I would receive the same quality experience. I left the meeting with a good feeling of brotherhood that I had not felt since my time in the Navy.

I was in a bit of an awkward situation. Even after my meeting with the one lodge and its members, who were very nice and welcoming, I still felt a pull to the other lodge in my city that I had originally driven by. Not only did they meet in that building that I couldnt get out of my head, it was a very old lodge steeped in history, so even though I felt as if I would be betraying the men who made the effort to reach out to me, I decided to petition the other lodge, my love of history overrode my feelings of loyalty to the men who I had met.

When I emailed the WM that I had met with my decision, he immediatly set up an interview with the other lodge. He said he could not be there for the meeting but that I should walk in before their meeting and ask for the WM and Chaplain who were great guys. I was finally going to get into that lodge that I had driven past on that dark and stormy night months before!

When I pulled up to the the old brownstone building, I noticed ornate stained glass windows that I had not noticed before because they were not lit from within as they were as I pulled up. The windows had many symbols, a large square and compass, an anchor, a broken pillar, a beehive many symbols I recognized from my Internet investigation of Freemasonry. It is a beautiful building from the outside at night. I walked in and heard some voices down a flight of stairs and proceeded towards them. At the bottom of the stairs I saw a group of men in tuxedos conversing around a table. One of the group noticed me, waved me over and introduced me to everyone present. Again I was greeted with great warmth from all. The man who noticed me introduced himself as the Chaplain and asked the Worshipful Master to accompany us upstairs to talk.

The inside of the lodge room did not let me down. Walking past a 15 foot column with a globe on top we entered into a grand lodge room with a cathedral ceiling painted with gold stars above us. Lined up on the chairs that went down the side of the room were beautiful satin trimmed aprons and officers jewels that the Chaplain explained to me were a gift to the lodge from a visiting brother years ago. They were preparing for a degree that evening and had all the accoutrement's ready to go. We sat down and they interviewed me which again went well and said that they would vote on me during the next meeting and would let me know the outcome.

I will spare you all of the rest of the story. There are plenty of degree by degree stories elsewhere on the Internet that are all very interesting but much of the same.

That was all over one year ago and I am now the Senior Steward of that lodge with plenty of thoughts of Freemasonry to share in the future.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Why I Knocked

I have been a voracious reader my whole life and have crammed a lot of life experience into my short 33 years on this planet. I have worked many trades and made many friends along the way, when I first knocked upon the door of Freemasonry.

My first cognizant recollection of Freemasonry is of a friend of mine in the Navy who planned to join the Fraternity when he got out of the service. His plan was to hike the Appalachian Trail, grow a beard to his chest and be a 32° Mason by the time he finished. We had been discussing the solution to life's questions over way too many Guinnesses and I remember asking him, in ignorance, why he wanted to join an Anti-Catholic organization. I don't remember where or when I gathered that info on Freemasonry, but sometime during my Irish Catholic rearing I must of heard that statement, and at the all knowing age of 19 shot that opinion at my friend. He said that he was pretty sure that that was not true, and as far as I know (because after the service we never kept in touch), went on with his plan. Even after all of my heady pleading that night.

I have always been an avid reader. My love of reading began in Junior High School when I read "The Island" by Gary Paulsen. It was a very introspective book for a teenager and began my lifelong search for the answers to the bigger questions in life and my appetite for reading. In High School I read every Tom Clancy novel which explains my stint in the U.S. Navy but much of my taste in reading revolved around History and Philosophy. I read many books that touched on Freemasonry but I never paid the subject much attention.

It wasn't until a really hard time in my life, while watching one of those wonderful History Channel exposés on The Craft, that something made me run to the computer to do one of my routine Google searches on a subject that had piqued my interest. That something, was one of those great sinister sounding lists of men in history who were Freemasons, including many of the Founding Fathers of the country I love. I wanted to know more about a fraternity whose membership included such a diverse spectrum of men. I didn't know any Freemasons so I turned to the only place in my living room to find out more, the Internet.

Luckily the first thing that comes up on a Google search of "Freemasons" is the Wikipedia article on the subject. It was quite informative and had links to the Grand Lodges of every State. I then went to the Grand Lodge of Connecticut's website and found out there was a lodge right in the city where I lived, in fact there were two! I found an excuse to leave the house and took a ride down to the closest one to where I lived.

It was a dark and stormy night when I drove past the lodge, nothing ominous just a low pressure system passing through. I had to go by twice because the building whose address matched what I was looking for was an old brownstone church, nothing like the Knights of Columbus Hall I spent time in my youth with my father. Yet it had to be the lodge because it had an old, weather beaten Square and Compass hanging on a post in the front yard. I have to admit at that point my curiosity became something much more than passing. I went home and started researching Freemasonry with much more vigor than before.

I read everything I could find on the Internet about it. Everything from the kook anti-mason sites, to Grand Lodges websites from every state in the union and far beyond. I was surprised to find out there was so much stuff to learn about something I had barely heard anything about my entire life. I asked my Father what he knew about Freemasons and he said that he had heard of them but, did not know any, or anything about what they do. I received the same response from most of my friends and family which I thought was quite odd. I found this odd because, according to the conspiracy sites, this secret society actually ruled the world from some underground lair, so someone I knew should have heard something about them. Yet when I asked people about Freemasons I usually received a blank stare and a look of "I understand the words you are saying (Free Mason)but not how, or why they go together". Another response was "yes, I know someone who can rebuild your stone wall, but he works for money". I received my first positive response from my Father in law down South, who said he knew a few Freemasons but did not know much about what they did.

I didn't let any of this deter me because, from what I had read about Freemasonry, it seemed to me to be a reputable organization with many good aspects I could easily see myself adopting. I even learned that the Shriners, an organization I saw every year driving their mini-cars in the St. Patrick's Day Parade were all Masons! Who knew! I always thought they were just a bunch of nice old men in funny hats that gave allot of money to sick kids.

What most intrigued me about Freemasonry was that it was (according to the stuff I read) still practiced the same way as it has been for 300 years, which appealed to my love of history. It was still an initiatory, esoteric society of men seeking to better themselves, which appealed to my philosophic nature. I have to admit that there was not one argument or outrageous statement on any of the "anti" websites that outweighed everything I had read about Freemasonry on the rest of the web. So, after much careful thought and a long conversation with my wife, I decided that I had garnered enough positive information about the fraternity to freely and voluntarily submit myself to the mysteries of Masonry. It was time for me to knock.