Monday, December 20, 2010

The Lodge as Lab Part 1: The Full Third Degree

By Hannes Grobe 19:04, 3 September 2006 (UTC) (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-2.5 (], via Wikimedia Commons

As I began to pull back into my new role as Lodge Education Officer, I’ve been thinking about all the different programs I tried at Corinthian Lodge No. 67 while I sat in the East. Masters are given a lot of leeway to try new programs out to get the brothers more active. We may not make innovations in the Craft but this prohibition is aimed at the ritual and have little to do with programs that make Lodge a fun and worthwhile experience, i.e. no fourth Craft degree. When I took the Oriental Chair, I began to view myself as a scientist, testing experiments on the brothers and candidates to see what works and what doesn’t work. The first experiment I would like to discuss is the idea of giving each candidate the full degree work.

In Minnesota, lodges have the ability to abbreviate the second section of the third degree on all but the last candidate. I wanted to see if retention and more especially, participation, went up if candidate received the full second section. I should first preface why I wanted to test this hypothesis.

For many years at Corinthian Lodge, we had many candidates go through and witness the second section performed on the last guy. I began to notice that there seemed to be a correlation between them coming to lodge and taking a part in the full degree. I also had a personal reason. The fee for degrees is not a small number. Many lodges charge hundreds of dollars to take the degrees yet we weaken the degrees’ punch by abbreviating them. Essentially, all but the last candidate becomes a spectator and loses any dramatic punch from the third degree.

This is what I did. We had three candidates for our spring class. (Corinthian Lodge ranges from one to three classes a year). I decided that I wanted each brother to receive the full third degree. As Master, it was my responsibility to plan the third degree and I took it upon myself to get the right brothers for parts. I doubled each part of the third degree and let the experiment begin. I also had all the candidates together for the first section of the degree as that was what they were used to. When the degree started, the results were astonishing.

I imagined the time to do each second section taking at least forty-five minutes if not longer. I was surprised to find out that it takes less than 25 minutes at a normal pace. With the right planning, three candidates at a normal pace take an extra 25 minutes maximum. Also, if brothers need a break, having roles doubled removes the stress and gives each candidate a different perspective on the degree. The ritual is the same for each candidate but the different emphasis and inflection of the words. Also, the first candidate to go through is able to watch the rest of the degree and understand more fully what just happened to him. Now for the results.

I have noticed that the first three brothers that we tried this on have been incredibly active. Two out of the three are in Scottish Rite and all are looking for other avenues for Masonic light within our Fraternity. All of them are voracious readers of our history and philosophy and are incredibly committed in just a short time of being a Mason. It looks like we will continue this tradition of the full second section on each of our new candidates.

My conclusion in this experiment is that we need to give candidates the same attention and care that we would want paid to us. Candidates pay a lot of money to join our Fraternity but may not get to experience the full feeling of being a Mason. Men petitioning now are looking for something more; not merely a place to hang out with the boys but a society of seekers looking for the tenet of Truth. They want to be true initiates of our Order. I think the only way we can give them that feeling and status is by giving them degree work without becoming a spectator.

Does your Lodge do the full third degree on each candidate? Why not leave a comment?


The Palmetto Mason said...

In SC, each candidate gets the full treatment. I visited another Jurisdiction once and - for the first time - witnessed what you have described (short versions for all but the last candidate). I'll say that I was shocked.

burntloafer said...

As your SW, I was (and remain) in complete agreement with your thoughts about the 'full' third degree, W.B. Nick.

Like so many brothers who have gone through degree work before and after me, I distinctly remember that moment of reflection when I looked out from the NE corner of that lodge and saw all my Brothers. I realized for the first time that they had done all their labors for my benefit; my sense of awe and gratitude was overwhelming.

Would I have been less impressed by going through a 'shared' experience? I can never know for sure, but I can tell you I knew how it made me feel at the time.

It was and remains a very moving experience, and one that I think should not be diluted in any way.

Unknown said...

I was raised in the short form. The other Brother being raised with me that day got the Long Form. I became very active and he hasn't been back to lodge since.

Sitting on the sideline didn't change the importance of the degree for me. As a matter of fact I think I enjoyed it more since I was able to take the entire pageantry in.

I only assuming here but I figure it was a combination of things that lead these Brothers to become active. Including a strong education system leading up to their raising. I would love to hear the program you had for them. We have five candidates being Entered in January and would love to have ALL of them become active.

Clay Anderson said...

As a Traditional Observance lodge, we present the Third Degree in full form for each candidate. I think of it as a gift we're giving to the candidate. We don't consider them "ready" until they've already been active in the Lodge for several months, so it usually isn't a problem having them remain active.

Still Justa Mason said...

Such short-cutting isn't permitted in my jurisdiction for Lodges using the American style of ritual. Candidates never sit on the side during any part of a degree.
I have yet to meet a new Mason who is in favour of truncating the ritual. The people who do are Past Masters who have seen it all before and don't want to spend a "long" night in meetings.

The Plumbline said...

In Virginia, we allow for some parts of the degree to be done in parallel, but EVERY candidate must get the climax of the degree individually.