"To preserve the reputation of the Fraternity unsullied must be your constant care."


Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Big Changes at the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania has always had one of the largest memberships in the U.S., for more than 250 years. But their ritual and rules are very different from any other masonic jurisdiction. If you ever have the opportunity to visit a Pennsylvania Master Mason degree, go out of your way and take the extra effort to do so.

Freemasonry in the Keystone State has always been strict as far as their practices go. No written rituals—all work is mouth to ear, and the W∴M∴ does almost all of the speaking in all three degrees. Pennsylvania has rarely succumbed to one day classes, and never allowed even limited solicitation.

Well, much of that is changing this year. R∴W∴B∴ Thomas K. Sturgeon, Grand Master for 2010/2011 has announced an ambitious slate of changes for the upcoming year, under the aegis "21st Century Renaissance."
  • Selective invitations allowed
  • Three black balls now required to reject a candidate, instead of one
  • One day class in 13 locations next October 30th
  • District ritual teams may confer degrees on multiple candidates
  • Any 60+ year old Mason who successfully recommends two new members under 30 are granted lifetime dues remission
  • Dues may now be paid via credit or debit card (any GL that doesn't allow this is out of its fiduciary mind)
  • A proficiency pin program certified by schools of instruction (Indiana was one of the first to do this)
  • Shortened versions of opening and closings for meetings are now allowed
  • Suspensions and expulsions to be largely handled at the local lodge level, and not by the Grand Master, with new clarifications about providing proper due process (Hooray!)
  • Relaxation of the traditional formal dress code in meetings
  • Per capita increase of 50¢ to support youth groups
  • Greater expansion of community and charity service, including an individual commitment by every single Pennsylvania Freemason to perform a weekly random act of kindness (a simple, but beautiful and proper lesson in the real meaning of masonic charity)
  • Simplified secretary/treasurer software to help each lodge with its annual audit (every GL should be doing this)
  • A Masonic "congress" meeting in February for all Masonic groups, to seek ways to work together statewide
  • A written ritual will now be made available for study for the first time in Pennsylvania history
There is much more, and the entire program can be read here. This is the most formidable outline of reforms and changes I have ever seen a grand master propose all at one toss.  I am sure there will be grumbling across Pennsylvania, but Grand Master Sturgeon and his fellow officers have obviously been thinking long and hard about ways to face the challenges all jurisdictions are confronting.

The "Laudable Pursuit" generation of grand lodges officers are moving into the top positions all over the country, and are at last making the changes needed to adapt to the new century. In case you think Freemasonry never changes, we are living through a momentous time in the fraternity, with greater experimentation going on than at any other moment in history. Power is being devolved to the lodges, and grand lodges are removing barriers to new methods of holding meetings, teaching, learning and operating.

We live in exciting times. I'll be curious to see the reaction of Pennsylvania brethren.

Thanks to Brother Lee Martin for the heads up.


  1. Actually, in Pennsylvania we have had two one-day classes in the past, in 2004 and 2005. As one who was put through the first one (without being offered the choice), I can't completely complain. I have, however, been on the record since then as being against them on principle not of producing lesser candidates, but of robbing them (us) of the full experience of the degrees.

  2. As a 28 year old officer in my PA lodge I do welcome some of the changes but I am definitely against writing down the ritual for study. Not only does it seem to cheapen the whole process of learning the ritual it can also deny a newly entered apprentice the opportunity to sit down with his fellow brothers and get to know them as well as learning ritual the same way generations of men before him have.

  3. I live in Illinois, and our ritual has been written down for decades. It has resulted in fewer mistakes and more men learning more ritual. There's nothing cheap about it.

  4. As a Pa Mason and newly installed Master of my Lodge, I really only take issue with two of these...the three black balls and the printing of the ritual...both of these violate the oath I took as a PA Mason. It has always been a matter of pride for PA Masons that our ritual was not written down. It has always been learned mouth to ear...I do not see the logic in changing this. I think requiring three black balls takes away from the unanimity of the Lodge and could disrupt the harmony of the Lodge. The only other change I take some issue with is lowering the dress code. A Masonic meeting should be something special, how hard is it to put on a coat and tie. All that being said I will support my RWGM and carry out his decrees to the best of my ability...I just might not do all of it with a smile.

  5. Regarding written ritual books, having received my degrees in South Carolina, I think we have a decent compromise that works well: Ciphered ritual books. It still requires LOTS of interaction with our Masonic brothers, because the book is unreadable unless you actually hear the words spoken first. And they do come in very handy for those times when you have to "fill in" for a position that you may not be 100% adept at. (And no, we do NOT read out of them during opening, closings, or degree work--that must all be memorized.)

    1. PA has cifered ritual from older texts, just not the present ritual which has been slightly changed,

  6. I recently petitioned in PA and just scheduled a gathering with the investigation committee in my home. I am excited about these changes. Had the one day classes been held in the last year or so I would have petitioned earlier but I am glad to be (hopefully) going through the degrees the old-fashioned way.

  7. Regarding the "One Day Masonic Journey", in South Carolina, I never had the option of a one-day class, and personally, I am glad of it. For me, my several-month journey through the Blue Lodge was a great lesson and test of patience. It really made me think about and appreciate what I went through. There were times when I wished things would move along faster, but in retrospect, I don't regret the timing in any way.

    Later, I went through the York Rite degrees where all of the degree work was performed in full over two weekends. Yes, it was very exhausting, but being able to go through it completely really meant a lot to me.

    There are plenty of people with extremely busy schedules, but somehow, we always seem to be able to eventually schedule the required degree work.

  8. As another PA Mason (Newly Appointed Senior Master of Ceremonies for my Lodge), I also find that a lot of these changes are welcome, but I don't know about the part about writing down the ritual, because when I was going through my degrees, I liked the experience of learning from my Brethern. In fact, my aptitude in learning was noted as very welcome. It won't be the same learning the ritual from a book as I, hopefully, move up the chairs in my Lodge.

  9. I like the list of changes, mose have taken place in the state of Utah for some time.
    We do have a ciphered ritual and catechism for candidates. Candidates still have to meet with their fellow brothers if they want to learn the catechism, havingit ciphered does not steal that opportunity from them.
    I would just hope that the relaxation of dress does not become too relaxed.

  10. Selective invitations allowed

    I guess radio, tv, and internet ads won't be far behind, eh?

    Three black balls now required to reject a candidate, instead of one

    This is standard in many other states.

    One day class in 13 locations next October 30th

    Damn. They added so many good things, and this sneaked in, huh?

    District ritual teams may confer degrees on multiple candidates

    I'm always amazed to hear that entire degrees are conferred on one candidate at a time. We would be doing at least one a week if we couldn't have up to 4 or 5 at a time.

    Any 60+ year old Mason who successfully recommends two new members under 30 are granted lifetime dues remission

    Hmm. I see the point, but it sounds too much like Amway.

    Dues may now be paid via credit or debit card (any GL that doesn't allow this is out of its fiduciary mind)

    Ugh. A few of us in the Nutmeg State have been suggesting this for a few years. I think that one or two lodges now will accept PayPal, but I've heard that most lodges don't want to accept credit cards because they don't want to pay the 3% fee.

    A proficiency pin program certified by schools of instruction (Indiana was one of the first to do this)

    Conn has been doing something similar for a few years (it's a certificate, not a pin). I have mixed feelings as to how well it's working.

    Shortened versions of opening and closings for meetings are now allowed

    Ugh. Conn did this 15 or 20 years ago, and IMO, it served to screw things up for most lodges. OTOH, IIRC, Penn has a particularly long opening ceremony, so hopefully they're just cutting it down to a length that removes some of the redundancy, and doesn't actually remove entire sections.

    Suspensions and expulsions to be largely handled at the local lodge level, and not by the Grand Master, with new clarifications about providing proper due process

    Welcome to the 21st Century, Penn!

    Relaxation of the traditional formal dress code in meetings

    This point comes up a lot in discussions. Many people think that more formal dress makes for a better meeting. Other people simply want to show up. Since I have to get dressed up most of the time, I'm all for relaxing the dress code.

    Simplified secretary/treasurer software to help each lodge with its annual audit (every GL should be doing this)

    Wait a minute - that would be using those "computer" things that the kids are always talking about, right?

    A written ritual will now be made available for study for the first time in Pennsylvania history

    We've had a printed ritual for years, and some people are *still* complaining. I understand the points about mouth to ear work, but I don't think that I've lost out by having studied a monitor written in English.

    Anyway, I'm glad that things are progressing in the Keystone state. Here's hoping that the changes will prove beneficial to the craft.

  11. Interesting ideas.
    My only contention and observation is: writing down the ritual. I like how we in Utah have the catechism to study.

    I also don't like the idea of relaxing the dress code. Of course if a man can't afford black tie or whatever, he should be made to feel welcomed in the lodge, however, I appreciate the formal dress for meetings and degrees. It adds a dignity and respect that I like. Then again, I enjoy dressing up.

    Thanks br. hodapp for the blog! I enjoy reading it.

  12. The comments here make me want to travel more to other jurisdictions.

  13. Mouth to ear is great,but isn't that putting a lot of faith (year to year) in preserving sacred ritual? Most jurisdictions have a monitor or ritual book that can only be deciphered by Masons. Is there some reason PA Masons can't resort to this method?

  14. I am just glad that the GLoPa finally recognized Brother Ben Franklin as a Mason and gave a Masonic Burial!

    "Bro. Franklin was a member of a “Moderns'” lodge in Philadelphia but by the time he returned from France and died, his lodge had gone over to and received a warrant from the Ancients Grand Lodge. Because of this they would no longer recognize him as one of their own and unceremoniously declined to give perform a Masonic funeral service. On April 17th 2006 the 116th Grand Master of Masons of Pennsylvania, Ronald A. Aungst, Sr., corrected this injustice by holding a Masonic memorial service for Bro. Franklin."

    Thank You GLoPa!

    Bro Tom Coste
    Halcyon No.2

  15. In the PA ritual we agree to never write or print the ritual in any way. It is never to be decipherable to anyone...ourselves included. So a monitor or cipher book would violate this.

    As for accuracy, we have monthly schools of instruction for our district, yearly regional schools of instruction, each lodge has a committee on instruction...all of whom are tasked with ensuring that the ritual remains the same.

  16. In response to Kevin's question, our obligations are the first thing that springs to mind, but only if you're the crazy kind who considers his word of honor binding on his conscience (there's also the included expectation on the part of the WM, as the custodian of the script, that he facilitate others' breaking of that same obligation). There's also the social aspect -- why join a fraternal society just to spend more time holed up alone at home?

  17. Regarding Franklin's funeral, there is more to the story:

    "Recently a brother wanted to know Q - Why Masons did not wear aprons to Benjamin Franklin's funeral attended by 25,000 Philadelphia citizens as was customary in the 18th century? A - Bro. Franklin remained a Lodge member of the United Grand Lodge of England which was not recognized by the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania."

    Note that the GL of Pennsylvania at that time was a Modern lodge as distinct from Ancient.

    1. Please cite your references. GL of PA separated from the GL of England September 25, 1786 as the "Antients". Bro. PGM Benjamin Franklin died April 17, 1790. When Bro. Franklin was the Grand Master - PA was under the "moderns".

  18. After going to the grand lodge website and reading the whole thing for myself it's clear that this is an attempt, perhaps the first major one in PA, to make a major step forward for the challenges of the new century. A great deal of concern has to do with honoring family time of young men who are brought into the lodge. Which, if I remember correctly, was one of the criticisms of Freemasonry back in the 'day', that is, that Masons neglected their children.

  19. The advent of this current event renders an article in the new issue of 'The Journal of the Masonic Society' even more timely. Written by Mark Tabbert, 'Restructuring American Freemasonry' suggests a lengthy list of reforms to the ways lodges, districts, and grand lodges are, in general, administered.

    New lodges, small lodges, affinity lodges, are recommended keys to reinvigorating the Order. Transferring the army of absentee members to an administrative "Lodge of the Inactive" allows the absentees to continue wearing their rings, while liberating their lodges from the cost and difficulties of keeping them on the rolls.

    Greater autonomy for lodges, letting them decide how often to meet, on which degree to open, which ritual to work, which language to speak, whether to use a ritual book, etc.

    Candidates to be initiated, passed, and raised at a deliberate and gradual pace, allowing them the time they need to satisfy education requirements and other goals before advancing.

    Meritocracy in choosing officers, allowing lodges to retain willing and capable masters for prolonged periods (think Swedish Rite).

    At the district level, the deputy grand masters would be elected(!) by the constituent brethren, and serve two-year terms. This returns DDGMs to their original purpose, which is to represent the lodges' interests to the grand lodge, and not just to be the unaccountable authority bearing the latest bad news from grand lodge. And, obviously, it would curtail "haughty demeanor."

    Brethren transferred to the Lodge of the Inactive possess no grand lodge voting rights, shall not be members of appendant bodies, and are not exempt from this due to any previous rank they'd held. They are treated as the inert resource that they are, and have the option of earning their way back into their proper lodges by attending instructional meetings and demonstrating proficiencies. I love this idea.

    I love that idea.

    At the grand lodge level, voting members of GL are the current Masters and Wardens of the lodges, plus the elected grand officers and past grand masters. NO past masters vote, which I imagine prevents the jurisdiction from living in the past. Grand lodge meetings would be biannual, with the necessary business supplemented by the brethren presenting educational and ritual content. Puffery is reduced by not introducing the VIPs of the appendant bodies, etc.

    These are only quickly typed interpretations of some of Mark's ideas. There is a lot more.



  20. As a PA Past Master, I take issue with many of the changes. I took an obligation that addressed the issue of printing the ritual. Having to get together with a brother to learn the work is what hooked me! I probably would not have become such an active member if I was learning from a book. I have some sole searching to do because I feel that this is a violation of my obligation which was between God and Me and I don't remember a "contract opener". I might also add that the R.W.G.M. took the same obligation! As for 3 black balls, so much for uninimity! The 1 day classes steal an expierience from the canidate that he can never recover. About the only thing I agree with is sending the notices electronically. The Grand Master should change the name of the fraternity to "The Club That Supports Masonic Homes"! This may be a deal breaker for me.

    Wm. C. Calvert Jr., P.M.
    Portage Lodge 220
    Hollidaysburg, PA

  21. I probably would not have become such an active member if I was learning from a book.

    And I would not have become such an active member if I weren't learning from a book and from my brother Masons. They reinforce each other. It's both, not one or the other.

  22. As an officer of my lodge in PA, like many bretheren have commented, I also object to most of the changes. Especialy the printing of our ritual and the three black ball change. I am not particularly thrilled with asking someone to join either. I realize membership is dwindling. However, I don't believe these changes are going to help. I do agree with showwing more community presence. That may actualy boost interest and membership. I took an oath to obey the officers and grand officers of the fraternity and I will honor my oath and obligation, even if our new RWGM is not honoring the same oath that he took upon initiation. And I can only hope that the his successor reverses these drastic mistakes that are being made.

  23. I don't envy the Grand Master as he travels the state, with emotions running as high as they are. I'll simply make a few small observations.

    Masons have been subtly asking their friends, relatives, neighbors and children to consider joining for three centuries. It sounds like this new change merely acknowledges that. Indiana has had this similarly worded rule for almost 10 years. I can't say it has cheapened or denigrated the fraternity. Nor has it brought in waves of new members.

    As a Mason, you are not being asked to write down the ritual. Grand Lodge will be doing that. Nothing in your obligation says you can't read it.

    The one black ball rule has been used too many times to satisfy a personal grudge or vendetta, or to keep NOKB's ("not our kind, brother") out of lodges. As early as 1738, Anderson recognized that three nay votes better served the Craft as a whole. The three ball rule has been in place for many years in several jurisdictions (New York and Texas, for example). If there is an objection to a candidate that will upset the harmony of the lodge, have the stones to object before the vote and explain yourself, instead of gutlessly tossing a black ball. Maybe you haven't seen family rivalry or bigotry at work in a lodge election before. I have, and the three ball rule would have fixed it.

    As for mentor vs. book learning, my own mentor was almost non-existant, and if it hadn't been for a ciphered ritual, I would have had no guidance as an EA. I have a friend in another state who has been begging his lodge for seven months for help to get through his mouth-to-ear EA proficiency, to no avail. A ciphered ritual would have gone a long way to getting him through - and even that is not what is being proposed in PA. As I understand it, the ritual will only be for MMs. Not everyone learns well the same way, brethren.

    One day classes have been flogged repeatedly. They are a one-time shot in the arm to bring in some fresh members, in hopes that YOUR lodge will benefit. The retention rate is exactly the same—study after study has pointed this out. I was initiated individually, but I was passed and raised at a one-day class. What makes a man an active Mason is his own drive and determination, how he's treated by his lodge, and whether he finds what he was seeking in the fraternity. And overwhelmingly, officers who were IPR'd in one day events feel cheated and resolve to make sure their lodge doesn't send more new candidates to such events. Paradoxically, one day classes eventually lead to better lodges, because officers don't want them and work harder to not need them.

    Not one of these changes will "save" or "destroy" Freemasonry in PA. But the same men who cry that Freemasonry needs to change are usually the first to shriek when it finally does. Give these new policies a chance. Honestly evaluate them after a year or two. If they are still the disaster you think they will be, then lobby to change them back.

  24. I was present at the installation of our new Grand Master last week. Like many, I was quite taken aback by his long list of changes, and at how drastic some seemed at first hearing. Yet I fully understood his rational, even as I chaffed at them. But, on further reflection, as Chris has just summarized in his note above, these changes are really not so earth shaking. And, as a newly installed Master, my greater concern should really be the challenges our GM's plans have been given us with regard to the work our lodges are expected to accomplish in the next year.

    Concerning the changes, all of you should go to the PA Grand Lodge web site and read about them for yourselves (The URL, as Chris already provided, is http://www.pagrandlodge.org/gmaster/renaissance.html ) But let me add a few details about the written ritual. I have not yet seen the book, but have discussed this some with my DDGM. As Master, I will receive five books allocated to my Lodge. Five books, that's it. (I don't know if this is the same for all PA lodges, or if the number is based on membership or some other calculation.) As Master I am responsible for them. As I sign them out--literally--to four other members of the lodge, they will attest that they will not copy them in any way--as per the O&O. Further, they may not be shown to non-masons, nor may they be used, in any way, during a lodge session. They are only for LEARNING the work, and the benefits of that have already been discussed here.

    As mentioned, I have only fives books, one of which I need to--or really should--keep for myself, and two others are for the Wardens. I have been told that our lead ritual instructor should, of course, receive one. That leaves one manual for the use of any other brother who has shown interest and ability in learning the work and becoming proficient in it. Thus, each candidate will not receive a book (nor will any EA, FC, or even newly raised brother as far as I am concerned.) The instruction of new brethren will still take place brother-to-brother, but now there will be an aid to be sure that instruction is correct. Officers--elected officers at least--may now work on their own to be sure they are not in error, and to learn the copious dialog the Master has during each degree conferral. I do not see the use of these books replacing all of the time spent working with a learned brother to fully memorize and polish the dialog, let a lone the floor work that goes with it, but I do foresee them decreasing the vast amount of time needed, and also reducing the errors which tend to creep in with a strictly "mouth-to-ear" learning process.

    I could go on to explain my own experiences, but I tend to pontificate too much.... Suffice it to say that while I grieve slightly at the loss of a long standing tradition, I also see that the benefit should outweigh the cost.

  25. As a Mason, you are not being asked to write down the ritual. Grand Lodge will be doing that. Nothing in your obligation says you can't read it.

    Bro. Hodapp, the counterpoint I would make is that while I make not necessarily be violating my O&O by reading it (and I think that even that point would be splitting hairs since there is another part of the O&O that is attached to that), but if the GM and members of the GL allowed for the writing down of the ritual, wouldn't they be violating their O&O? Wouldn't I, as a PA mason, have an affirmative duty to shine the light on anyone who was acting counter to their O&O? But here's the rub, what do you do when it is your GM who you feel has committed a Masonic offense?

    In most other jurisdictions, GLs have to put these types of changes up for a vote, seeing as how they would alter that particular jurisdiction's Constitution. Not so in PA--the GM can make these changes across the board as he likes.

    I find myself torn as a PA freemason--guess we can just wait and see what the fallout will be.

  26. I too am a PA Mason. I am the sitting JW for 2010. After receiving our packet from the DDGM I can tell you the following:

    The 5 Ritual Manuals each lodge receives contain only the three degrees. Words are left blank in appropriate spots and O&O are listed in cipher. This document will not be useful to anyone that is not learning to confer degrees.

    I do not support most the changes as they appear to be nothing more than a big cash grab by Grand Lodge.

    These changes are designed to increase the size of lodges not to increase their strength.

  27. I think the observations of the author are important to highlight: Pennsylvania Freemasonry is very different in form than other places. That is why some of these changes (far less than half of them) are being challenged. The ones that remove those things about Pennsylvania Freemasonry that make it unique are what are being challenged. As the author also states, Pennsylvania has always been among the largest Grand Lodges in the world. It certainly takes quite a bit of hubris on the part of Masons from other jurisdictions with much smaller membership roles (despite many being in more populous States) to tell us it's about time we started being more like them. I'm not disparaging other jurisdictions and I love to travel to them and see Freemasonry done in all its various permutations. I'm just trying to point out that Pennsylvania must have been doing something right for our neck of the woods for us to have today roughly the same percentage of Pennsylvanians as Freemasons as we had during the "Golden Age of Fraternalism" over 100 years ago and still to be one of the largest numerical jurisdictions in the world.

  28. Well, Ohio, just next door, is number two in size. Ohio has almost 90% of Pennsylvania's Masonic membership, and historically, Ohio has long had a slightly greater percentage of their state's population as Masons than Pennsylvania. Ohio has had many of the "innovations" some in Pennsylvania are decrying as cheap and destructive for quite some time.

    And number three in size, Texas, has been using the three-ball election system for many years with success and without increased uproars of disharmony. (On the other hand, in one visit I had to a PA lodge, I saw the one ball rule specifically used by one silent man to deny membership to a black petitioner, in spite of pleas from the officers and master, and eloquent remarks by the oldest member of the lodge who, in one of the most impassioned speeches I have ever seen in a lodge, literally begged the brethren to vote in favor of the man.) So, I'm not sure you can make an argument that Pennsylvania's size and strength comes from its refusal to change any of its practices.

    What strikes me is the viewpoint that, one reason Pennsylvania is one of the top three jurisdictions in terms of size, and arguably the oldest grand lodge in the US, is BECAUSE they have never, ever, ever changed anything. And things like having a printed ritual accessible to the officers, or a three black ball rule (which goes back to Anderson in 1738) somehow "cheapens" the fraternity, and will decimate Pennsylvania Freemasonry. Yet Pennsylvania is losing membership at the same rate as nearly every state in the US.

    The author of the Pennsylvania Masonic Restoration website links to Laudable Pursuit. I can tell you right now as one of its several authors, Laudable Pursuit recommended devolving power to the lodges and greater variety of practices from lodge to lodge. It called for study materials to better educate Masons as to what Masonic ritual actually SAYS, instead of the hollow recitation by a parroting ritualist who doesn't have the first clue what the words mean. Don't think that Laudable Pursuitwas merely a document that recommended the status quo.

    Laudable Pursuit called for MANY of the changes GM Sturgeon has made, while keeping a careful eye on the traditions of the past. It did NOT advocate moribund stagnation on the pretense that the "old days" had it all right, or that we clueless modern clods have all somehow besmirched some imaginary "Golden Age" of perfect Freemasonry. If you think that, you need to get out of the house more. The PRACTICES of Freemasonry have always changed to serve the needs of the society in which it resides. It is the PHILOSOPHY of Freemasonry that does not change. How we teach it to our members and pass it on to the future has been tinkered with since the beginning.

    Remember the addition of the third degree didn't officially happen until the 1730s. Remember that way back on March 6, 1776, John Batt, working under the authority and the Constitution of the Grand Lodge of Ireland, initiated, passed and raised fifteen men into Army Lodge No. 44. In one day.

    Pennsylvania IS unique among Masonic jurisdictions in the US. These rule changes aren't rending the fabric of Pennsylvania's uniqueness. And in most cases, they seem to be devolving powers and decisions to the individual lodges. If your lodge wants to hold itself up as a shining beacon of excellence by keeping the memory work, dress code, etc. as it has always been, the new rules don't stop that.

    As for the recommendations on the Pennsylvania masonic restoration site, disagreeing with these new changes is one thing. Recommending ways to actually circumvent the GM's edicts is a nice way for your dues card to be summarily yanked. I don't care how much "due process" the new rules call for. You ARE in violation of your obligation by doing that. As I said elsewhere: be careful and respectful.

  29. BTW, the "3 ball" rule seems to first appear in Anderson's Constitutions revision of 1738:

    "But it was found inconvenient to insist upon Unanimity in several Cases: And therefore the Grand Masters have allow'd the Lodges to admit a Member, if not above 3 Ballots are against him; though some Lodges desire no such Allowance.
    (P. 155: New Regulations VI)

    And the three ball rule has reportedly been in use in Scotland since "time immemorial." Whatever THAT means.

  30. I don't feel the changes being made will destroy anything about Freemasonry in Pennsylvania, but rather a few of them destroy things about that unique thing called Pennsylvania Freemasonry. Ohio has excellent lodges and excellent Freemasonry. It is, however, different from our 'style'. If the rate of loss in the jurisdictions that made these innovations is roughly the same as in those which did not, what did the innovations really accomplish? If there is no clear evidence that these changes have ever turned the tide on membership, etc., then why change our unique style of Freemasonry with them? We lose what we had and gain little or nothing. I entirely agree with you and the other authors of Laudable Pursuit that recitation of ritual alone is pointless. There must be a restoration of masonic instruction and esoteric education within the lodge. Words alone are not enough. These changes don't address that core problem in our Lodges. Rather than improve Masonic education, these changes simplify ritual - which by itself and without further instruction accomplishes little. Speaking only for myself, I see these ritual changes as nothing more than catering to the Lodges that are struggling by lowering the bar rather than fixing the underlying problems that caused those Lodges to be in distress in the first place. As for potential consequences, I accepted those as a part of my oath to do everything in my power to stop some of the specific things that are being done. If I accept them unchallenged, I would have to violate my oath and I would be no Freemason at all. It is perhaps a fine line between upholding one part of my obligations while also upholding another now that they are in conflict. I can only do the best I can and pray. I volunteered to be the point man because I have web ability and server space. Far better men than I are working to preserve Pennsylvania Freemasonry. I will do my best to comply with both parts of the oaths I took. Maybe I will fail, but I have no honorable alternative but to try.

  31. As a Pennsylvanian Mason, I fully agree with Mike's post. I have viewed his site and concure with his objections to the "21st Century" program. Particularly, I object to the way the study manuals were presented. Too much of the present degree work beyond the O&O is exposed or uncipered. Contrary to popular myth, Pennsylvanian Work has been printed and exposed in the past and the evidence of such is even around today, over 100 years later. Such titles as "King Soloman and His Followers," "Ecce Orienti," and "Acimnos Ceihpr" have been around since the 1880's. These manuals (some are serialized and cover many states)present the degree work totally in cipher. Therefore, anyone who has not studied the work, would not be able to crack the code. However, having cracked the code, by proper study, one can understand other clandestine manuals. I say this because our Dist. Deputy stuggled to defend this precept of the 21st Century program stating that the PA ritual was already exposed, referring to a book entitled "Ritual of Pennsylvania Ancient York Masonry" which, like the new (21st Cent.) manuals, exposed all except the Oath and Obligations (O&O). However, this book exposed only the ancient ritual which has changed somewhat over the past 100 plus years. In other words, this book may expose some of what we do now (the individual rituals are not presented in the same order and contains much more ritual than what we do today), but what the book exposes is not exactly what we do and would leave anyone depending on them to have to guess what info is currently used. The only use for "Rituals..." is historical and informative to the initiated as to what has been omitted over the years. Even though these manuals and "Ritual.." have been around for decades, most mason's in PA think that their ritual has never been written down. So their effects in revealing our secrets are marginal at best. Also, the authors of these exposes claimed that they were presenting a service to aid their brothers in learning the rituals. Despite the O & O, I agree with their sentiments; you can present the rituals in a way that does not expose it to cowans. One more thing, those who spend too much time criticizing PA over their traditions need to lighten up. The tradition that we have and are in this state makes us proud and if the proposed changes don't substantially change things for the better, why do we need to change. I like being connected to the past. We don't need to make major changes in our masonic process - as I have seen such changes hasn't substantially increased masonic attendence in other states, at least not enough to warrant our copying them. On the point of blacks attending our lodges, I would be for that however, as tradition has it in our state and most others in our nation, there are alternative masonic lodges for blacks to attend. Prince Hall lodges came about to fill this void and from what I can ascertain from the web, their members are quite satisfied to remain exclusive. I can't join a PH lodge. In Pa, we are allowed and urged to visit PH lodges and PH masons are invited to visit ours. What else can be done about joining the lodges will have to be done with both lodge systems working together, and from what I can see both systems are satisfied with the status quo.

  32. I can join PHA lodges in my state, just as blacks can join mainstream lodges here. I guess that's just too radical for your personal brand of Pennsylvania Masonry.

    So "separate but equal" is a tradition you are fine with in a fraternity that teaches universal brotherhood.

    Got it.

  33. As for printed ritual, you are essentially saying it's okay for Masons to study printed exposures of PA ritual that are incorrect or out of date.


    The GL of PA printed those new rituals precisely because of that very problem. So that officers get it right, instead of repeating incorrect ritual year after year, learned improperly from either out of date exposures, or from well meaning brothers teaching them incorrectly.

  34. I don't want to get into a debate with you Chris. You need to first read my blog clearly. Perhaps I didn't state this clealy. But I did say that I was for Blacks being initiated into my lodge. It makes no difference to me. I know and understand the reasoning behind it. Why don't you contact the PH lodges in PA and see if they want to join our lodges. Research first, before you attack my statements. Also, I said that I liked the idea of a completely ciphered manual. The Rituals... book is only ciphered at the O&O. It is outdated and of little help to the unititiated. Finally, I'm glad your state allows the changes it does if it makes you happy and you members are satisfied. But learn something about our history before you rip on it. I have spent some time studying PA's masonic history and don't propose to be an expert on other states, so I won't say what those brothers should do. However, I catch a note of jealousy or envy in your blogs. Do you resent our being different? Why do you and others rip on us? Some of the changes proposed are needed and effective, but most are over reactions. However, we have already shown our distaste with these moves and may get them overturned in the future. If we do or don't it will be our business.

  35. Not jealous at all. I am frankly thrilled that Pennsylvania has a completely different ritual than anyone else in the U.S. Your rules are yours to keep or change as you see fit. But Pennsylvania has similar statistics and demographics to Masonry in the rest of the U.S., and the overwhelming majority of changes the GM has decreed are based on what exists in other states. It is not "mouth to ear" that makes PA Masonry unique, it is your ritual. And any lodge is free to lock up the rituals in a drawer and never consult them, if that is your choice.

    My apologies for misreading your comments about black brethren. That's what I get for attempting to be rational at 4 AM.

  36. Chris: Since I last blogged I have found a new development that pertains to our discussion on PA masonry. It seems that some of the Philadelphia lodges have been meeting with Prince Hall lodges - I think this started in 2006. It was during this time that our Grand Lodge allowed us to join PH lodges - that is, belong to both systems. However, as far as I know, PH Grand Lodge will not allow any of their members to join ours. I don't know why. This may work its way out eventually - I think that presently PHGL may feel their autonomy threatened. The new rules which include three black balls to reject may begin to correct the racist and petty motives of the past.

  37. Prince Hall Affiliated grand lodges, AS A VERY GENERAL RULE, take the stand that "No Mason can serve two Masters." They do not generally allow their members to have plural memberships, even within their own constituent lodges, much less in "foreign" jurisdictions. That is a longstanding custom in PHA GLs, so dual membership in a PHA lodge and a Penna mainstream lodge is not going to happen anytime soon.

    Neither do PHA GLs—again, very generally—honor demits from other jurisdictions (or allow their own demits to be honored outside of their jurisdictions). Instead, members who received degrees in other grand lodges usually are required to go through a "healing" ceremony and take the PHA GL's obligation.

    Is this protectionism? Sure it is. A longtime friend described it best by comparing it to the Negro Baseball Leagues, who lost their reason for being once Major League Baseball integrated. Prince Hall has a 230 year heritage that no one wants to see disappear.


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