The Royal Arch Degree: An Early History

This post was originally written to be delivered as a talk for the 2021 Texas York Rite Conferences on behalf of the Most Excellent Grand Chapter of Texas. As such, much of it is in an oratory style. I have chosen to preserve it in this tone of voice. All information presented is freely available online and not considered “secret.”


The Royal Arch Degree:

An Early History

Gabriel Jagush, PHP, Texas Chapter № 362, RAM

Introduction

Disclaimer

I want to start with a disclaimer. Please don’t go into this talk thinking that I intend this to be a rigorous work of scholarship! Yes, this talk leans on established masonic authors and primary sources. The primary basis, though, is my personal collection of notes and thoughts. I am grateful to Most Excellent Companion Myer for letting me share this with y’all.

I will, of course, defer to more experienced academics when it comes to corrections. I plan to alter, correct, and add to the talk over the course of time. If this ends up being a very different talk by the last conference, that would be more than acceptable to me.

Overview

At first, I intended for this to be more about the chronology of the Royal Arch Degree. Over the course of researching the subject and writing the talk, I changed my mind. To me, it’s become more interesting to relay a few stories about early Royal Arch Masons. Through those stories, though, we will learn more about the history of the degree. 

We’ll talk about:

  • the earliest confirmed dates of Royal Arch Masonry, 
  • an early clandestine capitular rite,
  • the torture of John Coustos by the Portuguese Inquisition,
  • and what this all might mean.

The Earliest “Hard Dates”

Ireland

The first written record that we have of the Royal Arch comes from the January 14, 1744 edition of Faulkner’s Dublin Journal. As part of a Masonic Saints John Day parade in the city of Youghal (You-All), on December 27, 1743, two “Excellent Masons” carried a “Royal Arch” through the town.1

Robert Harvey (of the Research Lodge of Ireland) thinks that the “Excellent Masons” were Deputy Wardens.2 I noticed an inconsistency, though. In the parade, one pair of “Excellent Masons” carries the “Royal Arch” and a second pair of “Excellent Masons” carry a level and a plumb line.3 As per Harvey’s account, the Master and Wardens are one group of three; the Deputy Master and Deputy Wardens are another group of three.4 At a total of six officers, this doesn’t account for the two other “Excellent Masons.” If not Deputy Masters, who are they?

Were these two brethren masons who were of an “excellent” quality? Were they “Excellent Masons” because they had received a specific degree? To add to this, was the “Royal Arch” like the kind of arch that we see within our modern Chapter rooms? Was it something more representative, like an Ark of the Covenant, as Companion John Stokes claims?5 We don’t have a lot of the context we need to answer these questions – or, at least, I don’t.

Scotland

Our journey now takes us to Bridge of Allan, Scotland. The oldest known Chapter in the world is Stirling Rock Royal Arch Chapter № 2. Their earliest documented meeting dates to July 30, 1743.6 7 This begs the question: how long had they been in operation before then? We can now push back the earliest date of the Royal Arch further than before. How much further can we go?

The Spurious Dublin Rite

Short Book (Long Title)

Let’s move on from “hard dates” and go back to Dublin, and tell a story that feels like it’s from the Wild West of Freemasonry. In 1744, Fifield D’Assigny (Fye-Field d’Ah-See-Nee) wrote a short book with a very long title.8 I’ll refer to it as A Serious and Impartial Inquiry. In great part, it’s a critique of how far Freemasonry had fallen in his day, with suggestions on how to fix it. It turns out that even in 1744, Freemasonry was always better in the good ol’ days.

The Grift in Action

D’Assigny also writes about a newcomer to the Dublin masonic scene who started a spurious Capitular Rite “somewhere about 1740.”9 He claimed to be a Master of the Royal Arch bringing over a rite from York, and used this pretense to scam  “several worthy men.”10 He also said they could only understand most of the “beauties of the Craft” through this new degree.11 This grift ran for a span of a few months. The deceit was so convincing that D’Assigny says even “many of the learned and the wise” fell for it.12 

One day, a Mason who was a “brother of probity and wisdom” showed up in Dublin, and blew the whole thing apart. You see, he was an ACTUAL Royal Arch Mason who had ACTUALLY received the degree. Somehow,13 he was able to show and prove that the spurious Dublin rite was a sham.14 The grifter was then “justly despised” by all the brethren, who expelled him.15

Consequences

This seems like it would have resolved the situation, but this did hurt many Dublin masons. A real Royal Arch rite existed, but they didn’t have a right to take part in it, and the real degrees were a secret to them.16 D’Assigny himself agreed that even though they had passed “usual degrees of probation,” this didn’t entitle them to the rights and benefits of a Royal Arch Mason. They should, instead, make a proper application, received with “due formality” by the proper authorities.17

D’Assigny further elaborates that the Royal Arch Rite was an “organized body of men who have passed the chair, and given undeniable proofs of their skill in Architecture.”18 He is describing Past Masters. This is consistent with the old prerequisite for Companions to have served as Master of a lodge. D’Assigny describes this “untainted” group of brethren as a “Lodge.”19 It is not clear if he’s referring to a lodge utilizing an additional Royal Arch degree, or if there was not yet a lexical distinction between Lodges and Chapters. 

The Guy Who Could Stare at the Sun

D’Assigny also writes of an “itinerant Mason” who claimed that his judgement was so “illumin’d,” and his eyes were so strong, that he could stare at the brightest rays of the noonday sun without harm.20 He claimed that there were three more “material steps” needed to approach our “Summum Bonum,” or “highest good.”21 D’Assigny thoroughly rejected this second attempt at someone peddling a spurious rite, and felt it necessary to warn the Brethren.

John Coustos & His “Sworn Evidence”

Early Life

Moving onwards, we have the opportunity to explore the story of John Coustos and his “Sworn Evidence.” Coustos was born in Bern, Switzerland in 1703,22 and moved to London, England with his family in 1716,23 where he became a naturalized citizen.24 He was a jeweler and a businessman.25

In 1730, he was initiated in one of the lodges under the Premier Grand Lodge of England, and it was particularly notable because it is the oldest recorded instance of a new initiate being presented with a pair of white gloves.26 His entry into Freemasonry brought him interesting new connections, including the British Prime Minister, Robert Walpole. Although most accounts agree that Coustos was Protestant, there were allegations that Coustos was of Marrano descent,27 or in other words, that he was descended from Spanish and Portuguese Jews. This brought him to the attention of Walpole after a particularly unpleasant trial of Fransica Francia, who was a Mason and a “Sephardic Jacobite Jew.”28 Walpole then employed Coustos as a spy from 1730 to 1732, sending him (and others) to infiltrate French masonic lodges in London, and use their new connections to monitor the movements and activities of exiled Jacobites in Paris.29 Coustos travelled the Continent frequently for business, and ended up living in Paris for five years before he travelled to Portugal.30

The Portuguese Inquisition

In approximately 1742, in one of his frequent business trips, Coustos found himself travelling to Lisbon. There, he hoped to find passage to Brazil in an effort to “make his fortune” in the New World.31 However, when he petitioned the King of Portugal for permission to travel to Brazil, the King refused his petition, on account that Coustos’ skills as a jeweler made him a threat to any possible treasures in Brazil that the Portuguese throne wanted to lay claim to.32 He stayed in Lisbon long enough that he ended up founding a masonic lodge and serving as its Charter Master.33

As the Protestant Worshipful Master of a mostly-Catholic masonic lodge in a predominantly Catholic country, Coustos attracted a lot of unwanted attention – specifically, from the Portuguese Inquisition. At one point, he noticed that he was no longer receiving his mail.34 According to Coustos, this was a common tactic used by the Inquisition when they were closing in on someone whom they suspected of crimes against the Church.35 A year later, a woman gave up the identity of several influential Masons in Lisbon when she was giving confession to her priest, which caused the Inquisition to open up an active case against them.36 Subsequently, one of Coustos’ friends betrayed his identity and location, and in 1743, the Inquisition seized him under the pretense of diamond theft.37

The Inquisition whisked him away, and kept him as a captive for an extended period of time. Over the course of several months, he was put under oath multiple times, tortured brutally and repeatedly in different ways, and even subjected to the torture known as “the rack,” where his limbs were tied to winches and he was stretched out.38 Because of this torture, Coustos found himself forced to give up some of the secrets of Freemasonry.39

During this period, three of his friends and brothers were hanged by the Inquisition.40 Starting in 1744, he was sentenced to four year’s hard labor in a ship’s galley.41 One of his duties was to deliver water to the various prisons of the city, but because of the damage to his body from the torture, and because each load of water weighed approximately one hundred pounds, he fell “grieviously sick.”42 While convalescing in the infirmary, it became apparent that he would not be able to carry out his sentence, and was “excused” from it when he bribed the overseers.43 Once he was able to actually rest, Coustos got a friend of his to write to  his brother-in-law, asking him to inform the Earl of Harrington as to what was going on.44

Light at the End of the Tunnel

Coustos lucked out, and in October of 1744, he received a letter from King George II, demanding that the Inquisition release him.45 They agreed to give up Coustos, but only on the condition that he had to leave on the first ship to England, and could never return to Portugal.46 In addition to this, he would also be required to disclose which ship he would take, who was captaining the ship, and what day he would depart, down to the very hour he planned on boarding the ship.47

Coustos was elated – but only for a short while. While he was waiting for an English ship to arrive in harbor, he heard some news along the grapevine that very rightfully put him in a full state of panicked alert. An unnamed Freemason had been seized by the Inquisition and tortured similarly to Coustos until he “earned” his freedom by converting to Roman Catholicism.48 Like Coustos, the Inquisition had placed him under oaths not to reveal any of the events that happened during his imprisonment. However, unlike Coustos, this brother did not lay low, and instead told others about how he had been tortured.49 Coustos feared for his life, and approached the captain of a Dutch ship, and asked for permission to hide on board.50 The captain agreed, and Coustos went to the Inquisitor’s office with a friend, telling him that he would be leaving for England on the Damietta at 9 AM the next day, to which the Inquisitor agreed, on the condition that Coustos come to the office first, so that the Inquisition could provide an official escort and see him off.51

Coustos and the Dutchmen were very suspicious of this, so he immediately went into hiding on their ship, which was anchored, but not docked.52 The next day, when he didn’t show up at the office, the Inquisitor immediately suspected that Coustos had flown the coop, and sent 30 spies after him, who ransacked docked ships, tore apart his old house, and even looked for him in wardrobes and closets.53 Inquisition rowboats circled the Dutch ships for days and days, Coustos was forced to hide below deck for three weeks before they could safely set sail.52 He arrived in London on the 15th of December, 1744, and two years later, wrote a book called The Sufferings of John Coustos for Freemasonry and for His Refusing to Turn Roman Catholic in the Inquisition.55

Bernard Jones & His Thoughts

The Portuguese Inquisition actually kept very good records of their torture sessions, and some of Coustos’ confessions survived. An extract reads as follows:

… when the destruction took place of the famous Temple of Solomon there was found below the First Stone a tablet of bronze upon which was engraved [a familiar Biblical word meaning] God, giving thereby to understand that that Fabric and Temple was instituted and erected in the name of the said God to whom it was dedicated, that same Lord the beginning and the end of such a magnificent work, and as in the Gospel of St John there are found the same words and doctrine they, for this reason, cause the Oath to be taken at that place.56

We can immediately see here that Coustos is obviously talking about the Royal Arch legend. Companion Bernard Jones, who wrote Freemasons’ Book of the Royal Arch, felt that the information was credible and very important to the history of Capitular masonry, but he ascribes the idea to a sort of proto-Royal Arch ritual, or pieces of ritual, used in Craft lodges under the Premier Grand Lodge during the 1730s.57

I feel that at this point, I have to depart from Jones’ conclusion. Based primarily on the history of Stirling Rock Chapter and D’Assigny’s account of the spurious rite in Dublin, I think that Jones isn’t going far enough in his assessment of where Coustos learned these particular secrets. I think that he learned them through actually experiencing the Royal Arch, and not just a proto-ritual – although when, where, and how is lost to us.

The Possible French Connection

Coustos as a Temporary Parisian

We know that Coustos had been a Mason for over a decade by the time he was arrested in Lisbon. Prior to serving as Charter Master of his lodge, he was a member of several lodges in London, and Jones speculates that he may have served as Master of one of them.58 He also spent considerable time in Paris, which was a hotbed of masonic activity.

Kelly’s Theory

R.W.Bro. W. Redfern Kelly, among other brothers, held a theory that the Royal Arch may have been created in 1738 or 1739 by an English mason who witnessed a brand-new Continental degree, brought it back to England, and revised it in order to begin conferring it.59 This is only one of many theories trying to establish a French origin to the Royal Arch.

While I don’t want to rule it out, I am personally not entirely convinced that a French origin is likely. If we accept Kelly’s theory regarding a possible date of 1738 or 1739, then we have to ask a lot of questions about how Royal Arch Masonry spread so quickly to Scotland and Ireland.

Conclusion & Summary

I’m running out of time. To close, these stories I’ve told today happened long before the 1750s drama of the Moderns and Antients, or the beginning of the first Grand Chapter in the 1760s.

From documents as simple as a newspaper or charter, to stories as wild as masonic con-men and torture at the hands of the Portuguese Inquisition, we’ve gotten to get a little peek behind the mists of early Royal Arch Masonry, and see how well-developed it already was by the time it appeared in the historical record.

Sources

  1. Harvey, R. J. (1974). Royal Arch Masonry in Ireland in the Early 19th Century. Transactions of the Lodge of Research № CC (Ireland), XVI (Transactions for the years 1969 – 1975).
  2. Ibid.
  3. “Fourthly, the Royal Arch carried by two Excellent Masons. Fifthly, the Master with all his proper implements, his rod gilt with gold, his Deputy on his left with the square and compasses. [ . . . ] Sixthly, the two Wardens with their truncheons gilt in like manner. Eighthly, two Excellent Masons, one bearing a level and the other a plumb line.”
  4. Harvey, R. J. (1974). Royal Arch Masonry in Ireland in the Early 19th Century. Transactions of the Lodge of Research № CC (Ireland), XVI (Transactions for the years 1969 – 1975).
  5. Castells, F. D. (1927). Antiquity of the Holy Royal Arch. London: A. Lewis.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Edinburgh № 1 was chartered in 1778, despite having a lower Chapter number.
  8. “A Serious and Impartial Enquiry into the Cause of the Present Decay of Free-Masonry in the Kingdom of Ireland… To Which Are Added, Such Instructive Remarks… to Revive the Honour of That Antient Craft…”
  9. Bernard Edward Jones, Freemasons’ Book of the Royal Arch (London: Harrap, 1980).
  10. F. D’Assigny, A Serious and Impartial Enquiry into the Cause of the Present Decay of Free-Masonry in the Kingdom of Ireland. … To Which Are Added, Such Instructive Remarks … to Revive the Honour of That Antient Craft… By Fifield D’Assigny .. (Dublin: Printed by Edward Bate, 1744).
  11. Bernard Edward Jones, Freemasons’ Book of the Royal Arch (London: Harrap, 1980).
  12. F. D’Assigny, A Serious and Impartial Enquiry into the Cause of the Present Decay of Free-Masonry in the Kingdom of Ireland. … To Which Are Added, Such Instructive Remarks … to Revive the Honour of That Antient Craft… By Fifield D’Assigny .. (Dublin: Printed by Edward Bate, 1744).
  13.  D’Assigny does not elaborate how.
  14.  F. D’Assigny, A Serious and Impartial Enquiry into the Cause of the Present Decay of Free-Masonry in the Kingdom of Ireland. … To Which Are Added, Such Instructive Remarks … to Revive the Honour of That Antient Craft… By Fifield D’Assigny .. (Dublin: Printed by Edward Bate, 1744).
  15. Ibid.
  16. Ibid.
  17. Ibid.
  18. Ibid.
  19. Ibid.
  20. Ibid.
  21. Ibid.
  22.  McKeown, T. (n.d.). John Coustos. Retrieved January 11, 2021, from http://www.freemasonry.bcy.ca/biography/coustos_j/coustos_j.html
  23.  John Coustos, The Sufferings of John Coustos For Free-Masonry, and for His Refusing to Turn Roman Catholic, in the Inquisition at Lisbon; Where He Was Sentenc’d, During Four Years to the Galley; and Afterwards Releas’d … To Which Is Annex’d, The Origin of the Inquisition, … Extracted from a Great Variety of the Most Approved Authors. … (London: W. Strahan, 1746).
  24.  McKeown, T. (n.d.). John Coustos. Retrieved January 11, 2021, from http://www.freemasonry.bcy.ca/biography/coustos_j/coustos_j.html
  25.  John Coustos, The Sufferings of John Coustos For Free-Masonry, and for His Refusing to Turn Roman Catholic, in the Inquisition at Lisbon; Where He Was Sentenc’d, During Four Years to the Galley; and Afterwards Releas’d … To Which Is Annex’d, The Origin of the Inquisition, … Extracted from a Great Variety of the Most Approved Authors. … (London: W. Strahan, 1746).
  26. Ibid.
  27.  Zeldis, L. (2008, October 9). Some Sephardic Jews in Freemasonry. Retrieved January 11, 2021, from http://www.freemasons-freemasonry.com/zeldis14.html
  28.  Schuchard, M. K. (2012). Emanuel Swedenborg, secret agent on earth and in heaven: Jacobites, Jews and Freemasons in early modern Sweden. Leiden: Brill.
  29. Ibid.
  30.  John Coustos, The Sufferings of John Coustos For Free-Masonry, and for His Refusing to Turn Roman Catholic, in the Inquisition at Lisbon; Where He Was Sentenc’d, During Four Years to the Galley; and Afterwards Releas’d … To Which Is Annex’d, The Origin of the Inquisition, … Extracted from a Great Variety of the Most Approved Authors. … (London: W. Strahan, 1746).
  31. Ibid.
  32. Ibid.
  33. Bernard Edward Jones, Freemasons’ Book of the Royal Arch (London: Harrap, 1980).
  34.  John Coustos, The Sufferings of John Coustos For Free-Masonry, and for His Refusing to Turn Roman Catholic, in the Inquisition at Lisbon; Where He Was Sentenc’d, During Four Years to the Galley; and Afterwards Releas’d … To Which Is Annex’d, The Origin of the Inquisition, … Extracted from a Great Variety of the Most Approved Authors. … (London: W. Strahan, 1746).
  35. Ibid.
  36. Ibid.
  37. Ibid.
  38. Ibid.
  39. Bernard Edward Jones, Freemasons’ Book of the Royal Arch (London: Harrap, 1980).
  40.  McKeown, T. (n.d.). John Coustos. Retrieved January 11, 2021, from http://www.freemasonry.bcy.ca/biography/coustos_j/coustos_j.html
  41. Bernard Edward Jones, Freemasons’ Book of the Royal Arch (London: Harrap, 1980).
  42.  John Coustos, The Sufferings of John Coustos For Free-Masonry, and for His Refusing to Turn Roman Catholic, in the Inquisition at Lisbon; Where He Was Sentenc’d, During Four Years to the Galley; and Afterwards Releas’d … To Which Is Annex’d, The Origin of the Inquisition, … Extracted from a Great Variety of the Most Approved Authors. … (London: W. Strahan, 1746).
  43. Ibid.
  44. Ibid.
  45. Ibid.
  46. Ibid.
  47. Ibid.
  48. Ibid.
  49. Ibid.
  50. Ibid.
  51. Ibid.
  52. Ibid.
  53. Ibid.
  54. Ibid.
  55. Bernard Edward Jones, Freemasons’ Book of the Royal Arch (London: Harrap, 1980).
  56. Ibid.
  57. Ibid.
  58. Ibid.
  59. Ibid.

Being Quoted in “A Light in the Darkness”

One of the coolest moments in my Masonic career so far. A mysterious package arrived for me, but at the Fort Worth Temple, where I (almost) never receive mail. In it, I found a book titled Loge Liberté chérie: A Light in the Darkness.

Alexander P. Herbert, a brother from Ohio, wrote a book about Loge Liberté chérie, the secret lodge chartered by Belgian Resistance fighters inside Esterwegen concentration camp during the Holocaust. He quoted me in the book’s introduction!

The book is a quick read, but incredibly moving. It captures both how positively heartbreaking their conditions were, but also how powerful and uplifting the resilience of the human spirit can be.

I have written a letter of thanks back to him – this has floored me.

A Pentecost Blessing

Happy Pentecost, brethren.

Today, in the Western Christian Church, it is Pentecost – the great feast commemorating the descent of the Holy Spirit onto the disciples of Christ after the Ascension. While it is a Christian holiday, I think that all brethren, regardless of their faith, can appreciate the allegorical and alchemical symbolism involved, much in the same sense as the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite does.

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each.

Acts 2:1-6

I don’t want to connect the dots too much for y’all, because it’s more fun to sit and contemplate individually. However, I encourage meditation on the idea of  “I N R I” as a spiritual process of regeneration through the sacred fire of truth and love (AASR 18°).

May Love and Truth purify us all, helping us to become our higher selves while growing in the knowledge of the Divine, and may we all find ways to live and serve the glory of the Great Architect of the Universe.

Pax.

The Legalities of Masonic Learning

This was a Junior Warden’s Law Talk for the November 2019 stated meeting of Fort Worth Lodge № 148, AF&AM.


There are many laws that the Grand Lodge has laid down about teaching & and learning. These laws establish a set of rules that we have to follow to stay out of trouble.

Article 127 states that “no ritual other than that promulgated by this Grand Lodge shall be taught or used in this Jurisdiction.”1 To “promulgate” something is to promote it or make it “widely known.”2

This means that we can’t:

  • teach you an alternative trial lecture, or
  • use the ritual from another Jurisdiction, or
  • make up our own work.

There’s a grand tradition in Masonry of pointing out how different Grand Lodge laws don’t work. The most literal interpretation of this law’s phrasing is a good example of this. At face value, it means that teaching a candidate incorrect work by accident is also against the law! It also begs a few questions:

  • How do we define “ritual?”
  • The full-form degree lectures are no longer made “widely known” by the Grand Lodge. Are the full-form lectures legal?
  • Are the funeral services considered ritual? If so, are the services that are no longer included in the Monitor, and thus no longer promulgated, legal to use?

Article 138 states that if the holder of an esoteric certificate asks a lodge or Mason(s) to “employ or accept his services to teach or exemplify the work” shall lose his certificate. 3

Two things worth noting are:

  • there’s no mention of receiving compensation.
  • “Employ or accept his services” isn’t defined in the text.

Let’s use another literal interpretation. If I walk up to an Entered Apprentice and tell him, “let me teach you the work,” I am breaking the law.

Article 139 states that you can’t exemplify ritual or be compensated for it unless you hold an esoteric certificate.4 This means that you can’t lead a floor school if you don’t hold a certificate. It may also bar you from instructing students. The language of “receive compensation therefor” also seems to imply that you can be paid for leading a floor school. Article 142 supports this, in that no compensation can occur for a floor school unless the lodge authorizes and pays for it to happen in a lodge room. <sup>5</sup>

Article 140 states that we can ask any member of the Committee on Work or any certificate holder to teach the work. <sup>6</sup>

There several types of Masons who may not receive instruction in the work:

  • Someone suspended for non-payment of dues. <sup>7</sup>
  • An Entered Apprentice or Fellowcraft whose advancement was protested. <sup>8</sup>
  • An Entered Apprentice or Fellowcraft who is required to petition for advancement due to lapse of time. <sup>9</sup>

Article 439.2 states that a Master Mason who goes ninety days without during in his proficiency is automatically suspended. It also states that he can still receive instruction and be examined in an open lodge. <sup>10</sup> Master Masons will want to pay close attention to that point. This article means that Grand Lodge law allows for members of the lodge to or, sit in lodge with a suspended Mason. That would be a violation of our obligation.

It shall also be a Masonic disciplinary violation for a Lodge, a committee or any combination of Masons, or an individual Mason to possess, or use a cipher/code book on a Lodge premises, or to use a cipher/code book or access a cipher/code book in any form, including electronic access, in the presence of a candidate when instructing the candidate in the esoteric work of a Masonic Degree. <sup>11</sup>

Title V, Chapter 2, Article 508.24

That one speaks for itself.

In short, there’s a lot of ways to be unpleasantly surprised, legally speaking, when instructing or learning. It’s important that we pay attention to these kinds of laws. We don’t want anyone to get in trouble just for trying to progress in Masonry, or participating in lodge activities.

Notes

  1. Grand Lodge of Texas. The Laws of the Grand Lodge of Texas A.F. & A.M. Containing the Corporate Charter, the Constitution and Ancient Charges, the Statutes and Masonic Forms. Revised 2019. Title I, Chapter 17 “Committee on Work”, Article 127 “Ritual”.
  2. Merriam-Webster, s.v. “promulgate,” accessed November 11, 2019, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/promulgate
  3. Grand Lodge of Texas. The Laws of the Grand Lodge of Texas A.F. & A.M. Containing the Corporate Charter, the Constitution and Ancient Charges, the Statutes and Masonic Forms. Revised 2019. Title I, Chapter 17 “Committee on Work”, Article 138 “Certificates: Forfeiture.”
  4. Ibid. Article 139 “Esoteric Work: Who May Exemplify.”
  5. Ibid. Article 142 “Esoteric Work: Schools of Instruction.”
  6. Ibid. Article 140 “Esoteric Work: Employing Instructor.”
  7. Ibid. Title II, Chapter 18, Article 323 “Effect of Suspension.”
  8. Ibid. Title IV, Chapter 4, Article 434 “Procedure After Rejection.”
  9. Ibid. Article 434a “Procedure After Lapse of Time.”
  10. Ibid. Article 439.2 “Examination in Master’s Degree.”
  11. Ibid. Title IV, Chapter 2, Article 508.24 “Certain Other Masonic Disciplinary Violations.”

Who Says You Can’t Afford a Beautiful Lodge?

https://dwightlongenecker.com/who-says-you-cant-afford-a-beautiful-church-2/

Here’s a great article I found about building a beautiful budget-minded church. Fr. Dwight Longenecker is the parish priest of Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Church in Greenville, SC. They had to build their building on a fairly limited budget (for a church), and still did a really great job. If you want to read the detailed version of his ten-point article, click through, but these are the points (in short):

  1. Use modern building techniques.
  2. Use church salvage companies.
  3. Decide that the building will be beautiful.
  4. Beautiful buildings are possible in the modern age.
  5. If you’re building a church, you’re going to spend several million.
  6. Convert a Protestant building.
  7. Use experts.
  8. Money isn’t everything.
  9. Build a church suitable for your people.
  10. Spend money on what matters.

How can we apply this to masonic lodges? Obviously, as non-sectarian fraternity chapter, a masonic lodge will have different needs than a Roman Catholic parish, but there’s a lot of cross-applicational value to what Fr. Longenecker is proposing. In fact, the following points are applicable to masonic lodge buildings without any commentary or modification:

  • Use modern building techniques.
  • Decide that the building will be beautiful.
  • Beautiful buildings are possible in the modern age.
  • Money isn’t everything.

Let’s talk about Fr. Longenecker’s other points, and how they would apply to a masonic lodge building.

2. Use church salvage companies.

Fr. Longenecker recommends using church salvage companies such as King Richard’s Liturgical Design for large items and Used Church Items for small items. It is entirely possible to also procure items for a masonic lodge from companies like this. In particular, pew-style seating and altars come to mind. Many lodges have had great success when renovating their buildings by ripping out the commonly-used theater-style seating and replacing them with elegant pews – why not try this with new construction?

The Grand Lodge of your jurisdiction can also be very helpful in this case. Many times, when a lodge demises, consolidates, and so forth, there is simply nowhere for its furniture, regalia, etc, to go. Because of this, many Grand Lodge buildings are home to closets filled to the brink with useful lodge furniture that just needs to be rehabilitated. Auction houses are a very viable solution as well, as useful paraphernalia can often be acquired at very reasonable prices.

It is also possible for furniture to be made by members of the lodge. Creating a full set of lodge furniture would be a very involved task, but fortunately, the vast majority of it can be built out of wood using designs that are both simple and elegant. It could be a fantastic opportunity for team-building and casual hangouts in a brother’s workshop.

5. If you’re building a [lodge], you’re going to spend several million.

Brethren, there’s no bones about it: it is not cheap to build a new lodge building. Let’s use the 1921 blueprints (by architect David Castle) for Breckenridge Lodge #492. Those plans show a two-story building with exterior dimensions of 100′-0″ by 33′-4″ and an interior space of approximately 6000 sqft.

Based on current construction cost estimates that I was available to find online, I estimate that in 2019, it would cost anywhere from $1.5 million to $2.8 million to construct and finish-out this building prior to furnishing it, and not including the cost of land. I encourage you to do your own math on this – I’m just working off of the back of a napkin, so to speak.

A larger building will, of course, cost more. This is where we start to see the real advantage of temples being used by multiple bodies. Sure, this might be impossible for most lodges on their own, but what if you pooled together the resources of any combination of:

  • One or more lodges
  • A Royal Arch Chapter
  • A Cryptic Council
  • A Commandery
  • A Scottish Rite Club
  • A Shrine Club
  • An Eastern Star Chapter
  • A Grotto
  • and so forth?

Looking at spending upwards of $2-3 million is daunting, but if it’s a group effort, it’s more feasible to accomplish it.

6. Convert a Protestant building.

Obviously, Fr. Longenecker’s article is discussing this for the purposes of converting a Protestant church into a Roman Catholic church, but the same can be applied to lodges. There is a long history of lodges meeting in converted former churches. Outside of my jurisdiction (Grand Lodge of Texas), there are even lodges that meet within current functioning churches! Webb Lodge № 1454, AF&AM, located in Arlington, Texas, meets in a former church. It’s a modestly-sized space that’s been adapted extremely well for the needs of both Webb Lodge and Webb Chapter (OES).

There is also the possibility of buying a building from another fraternal order. The Knights of Pythias, Independent Order of Odd Fellows, and so forth, are all suffering from the same membership issues as Freemasonry. If a local non-masonic fraternal body is selling their building, it may be possible to adapt for masonic use with relatively few changes.

7. Use experts.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Who can I talk to who has built a lodge building within the past few years?
  • What are our practical needs as a lodge, and how to we build the lodge to fulfill those?
  • What are our ritualistic needs, and how to we build the lodge to fulfill those?
    • Know your ritual and how to confer it.
    • Consider reaching out to a member of the Committee on Work.
  • From a masonic perspective, what are the legal requirements of my lodge building?
    • Read your lawbook.
    • Talk to your DDGM. He’ll either know, or refer you to someone that does.

9. Build a [lodge] suitable for your people.

ADA (TAS in Texas) compliance is a no-brainer. You’ve got to do it. Even when not legally required to, it is a duty to all of our brethren to make sure that our buildings are safe and accessible. However, this is, or should be, a given, so it’s not the focus of this point.

What do your members want to see in your new lodge building? We are taking point #3 seriously and deciding that the building will be beautiful. What kind of beautiful building do you want to build? Modern? Classic? Flexible? Themed? Remember, this will be a group decision. I’m personally a huge fan of brutalist architecture, but a lot of brethren are probably looking for something a little more classic. Look to cathedrals, museums, and palaces. Find places of beauty, no matter what style. Find what your brethren want and need, not only in form, but in function, and design your lodge accordingly.

What will your lodge members use the building for? We surely want the lodge to be used for more than just ritual work. Here are spaces that, in Texas, we are required to have as a bare minimum:

  • A lodge room
  • An anteroom for candidate preparation
  • An anteroom for the Tiler

And that’s it. But what about a dining room? Here are some spaces/rooms you may want to consider including in your design, based off of the needs of your lodge:

  • Restrooms
    • Restroom anterooms for privacy
  • Family restroom with a changing table
  • Dining room large enough to rent out for parties
  • Kitchen large enough to serve said dining room
  • Coat rooms!
    • To leave personal suits in
    • To store degree costumes in
  • Royal Arch “Basement”
  • Prelate’s Apartment
  • Showers & locker rooms for brethren that work in the heat
  • Walk-in storage closets for each lodge and body that meets in the building.
    • Minimize the amount of stuff stored in the lodge room itself!
  • Conference room with a projector
  • Lounge with couches, a coffee counter, a wet bar (if legal), a pool table, etc
  • Admin office spaces with working space and storage for each secretary/recorder and a shared private room for phone calls

The possibilities are endless, really.

Consider building retail space into your design. A traditional model for lodge buildings that is still used with great success today is to rent out the first floor of the temple as restaurant or retail space, and use the upper floor(s) for masonic purposes. There are some lodges out there that are able to completely cover their operating costs in this manner.

10. Spend money on what matters.

What matters to your lodge? What are you going to use most? Make sure that the elements of your lodge that will see the most use are your highest priority in quality:

  • Seating for members and officers
  • The secretary’s desk
  • Doors
  • The altar
  • The dining area

What’s your priority?

The How & What of Petitioning

This was an educational talk on Grand Lodge law for the September 2019 stated meeting of Fort Worth Lodge № 148.


This month’s Grand Lodge Law presentation is focused less on interpretation, and more on the summary & explaination of seventeen laws that affect petitions, petitioners, and petitioning. There is some overlap with jurisdictional law, investigation committees, etc, but those will be discussed at a different time.

Gabe’s Notes on Petition Law

Article 308 1

You can change your dues and degree fees as you need to, but you can’t collect more from or rebate a petitioner once he’s turned in his fees if they were the correct amount at the time of his petition.

Article 393 2

A man has to be “free-born,” mentally sound, morally good, and eighteen years old. It’s worth noting here that he has to be eighteen when the petition is received, not when he makes the petition. In theory, your lodge could legally be petitioned by a seventeen-year-old, you just can’t read his petition in lodge until he’s eighteen.

He also must disclose any physical limitations or disabilities that preveent him from earning his own living, or limit his ability to give or receive anything Masonically, as required by ritual.

Any person that has been found Guilty of (or pleaded No Content to) any criminal charges related to pedophilia is completely disqualified from even submitting a petition. You can’t even read his petition in lodge.

Once those basic ground rules are met, the candidate’s mental, moral, and physical qualifications are up to the lodge.

Article 393a 3

You can extend a “neutrally-worded invitation” to a guy you think would make a good Mason. You have to let him make his own decision once you answer his questions and explain how to petition.

Article 394 4

Petitioners must have lived within Texas and the jurisdiction of the lodge for six months, and “be known” to at least three members of the lodge (who are in good standing), neither of whom can be the two recommenders.

There’s also a number of take-aways regarding how the location of your domicile is GENERALLY defined:

  • Your domicile is where you have the right to vote, sit on juries, etc.
  • If you’re married, your domicile is where your wife resides (unless you’re permanently separated).
  • If you temporarily move away, with the intent to return, you are still considered domiciled wherever you moved from and intend to return to.
  • With exception of military personell, transient people cannot lawfully petition.
  • Someone who hasn’t been domiciled in the jurisdiction of this state and a lodge for at least six months is “Masonically speaking, a man without a country,” and can’t petition.
  • EAs/FCs must be domiciled within the state, but not necessarily in the jurisdiction of a lodge.

Article 395 5

Military personell and people living in countries with no Grand Lodge are excempt from domicile requirements.

Article 399 6

If a petitioner that he has previously petitioned a lodge, the process must immediately stop until your lodge gets a full copy of all records related to that petitioner from the other lodge, and can verify that he can legally take the degrees.

Article 400 7

If your lodge has reason to believe or even just suspect he has been rejected before, the same applies as in Article 399.

Article 403 8

Key take-aways:

  • Petitions must be in writing.
  • Petitions can only be received at stated meetings.
  • Petitions must include all information requested on Form No. 26.
  • Recommenders must sign in person – a scanned copy is not sufficient.
  • If one (or both) of the two recommenders is suspended, expelled, or dies before the petition is received, the candidate will need a replacement recommender.
  • Petitioners need to provide a certified or photocopied copy of their birth certificate with their petition. If they don’t have one, then the Grand Master may issue a certificate of approval.
  • Any legal name changes must be disclosed and explained, with relevant documents attached to the birth certificate.

Article 404 9

The candidate must answer six specific questions addressing his willingness to follow fraternal regulations, his motivations, his religious beliefs, and whether or not he has petitioned before.

Article 405 10

Petitions are considered “received” when they are read in open lodge. If a petition is legally sound, then it must be referred to an investigation committee and follow the normal process of investigation and balloting, unless the petitioner provides a written statement requesting withdrawal. If a petitioner withdraws, he must still disclose this as an attempt to petition a lodge on any future petitions.

Article 405a 11

You can’t publish the names of a petitioner in a lodge newsletter or any “news media.”

Article 406 12

Unlawful presentations of petitions must be returned to the petitioner. A lodge not having jurisdiction over a petitioner may let the petitioner withdraw, or apply for a waiver of jurisdiction.

Article 410 13

If a petitioner dies or becomes mentally incompetent before the report of the investigative committee is made, this should be reported to the lodge, the committee discharged, and all fees returned to whoever is authorized to receive money on behalf of the petitioner, with no further action taken.

Article 411 14

If a petitioner is found to be totally disqualified in the investigation, this should be reported to the lodge, and the fee returned, with no further action taken.

Article 452 15

An eligible petitioner may petition any constituent lodge of the Grand Lodge of Texas.

Article 508-16 16

It is a masonic offense to lie about or not disclose having been previously blackballed.

Article 508-17 17

It is a masonic offense to lie about or not disclose having previously petitioned.

Footnotes

  1. Art. 308. Lodge May Fix Fees Above Minimum. A Lodge may by its by-laws fix, or by amendment thereto from time to time raise or lower the fees for the degrees or any of them in any amount equal to or above the minimum prescribed in the foregoing Art. 307; provided that the fees in effect at the time a petition for the degrees or advancement is filed with the secretary shall be charged to the petitioner.
  2. Art. 393. Qualifications. A candidate for the degrees of Masonry must be free-born, sound in mind, of good moral character, a full eighteen years of age on or before the day his petition is received by the Lodge, and disclose any known physical limitations or disabilities which will render him incapable of earning his own living or receiving and imparting, Masonically, all that is required by the ritual of the several degrees. However, an individual who has been found guilty of, or has pleaded no contest to charges of pedophilia (such as Indecency with a Child by sexual contact or any other means, Aggravated Sexual Assault with a child by any means, Sexual Assault with a Child by any means) shall be disqualified to submit a petition for the degrees of Masonry. After the foregoing requirements have been strictly met, the question of the candidate’s mental, moral, and such physical qualifications is one to be decided within the sound discretion of the members of the Lodge petitioned. (Revised 2019)
  3. Art. 393a. Solicitation. This Grand Lodge supports and practices the ancient custom and usage among Masons that a man is required to present himself for the Degrees of Masonry of his own free will and accord. At the same time, it acknowledges to all Masons of its obedience, that it is permissible and proper to extend a neutrally-worded invitation to petition for the Degrees of Masonry to a man whom you have strong reason to believe is of good moral character and reputation, who is otherwise qualified to petition under the Laws of the Grand Lodge of Texas. After answering the non-Mason’s questions about the Fraternity (those proper to be discussed) and explaining the procedure for petitioning, the potential candidate should be left to make his own decision and to proceed of his own free will. (Adopted 1992)
  4. Art. 394. (431). Domicile Requirements. Every candidate for the degrees of Masonry must have been domiciled within this Grand Jurisdiction for six months; and within the jurisdiction of a Lodge for six months before the date of his petition, and be known to at least three members in good standing of a Lodge or Lodges chartered by this Grand Lodge or a Grand Lodge duly recognized by this Grand Lodge, none of whom may be either of the two required recommenders. (Revised 1995)

Note: In determining the place of a man’s domicile for Masonic territorial jurisdictional purposes, the following general rules apply:

  1. Domicile means the place of a person’s permanent residence; where he has the right to vote, to sit on juriesand to exercise other rights and privileges of citizenship.
  2. A married man’s domicile is usually where his wife resides, but where there is a permanent separation, the husband’s domicile is governed by the rules applicable to an unmarried man.
  3. When a man (married or single) moves away from his domicile for the purpose of attending school, educating his children, engaging in business or other purpose, but does not intend to abandon his domicile, but intends at some time in the future to return to it and retains his rights of citizenship there, he does not thereby lose such domicile, regardless of the length of his absence therefrom. In like manner, if such person’s business takes him from place to place for short or long periods of time, his domicile is not thereby changed.
  4. When a person moves away from his domicile for any purpose, with the intention of not returning thereto, he thereby ceases to be domiciled in that place. He may acquire a domicile in his new place of abode by residence there with the intention of making it his domicile, and exercising or acquiring the right to exercise his rights and privileges of citizenship.
  5. When a person has never lived in one place long enough to acquire a domicile, but is a transient person, moving from place to place, he cannot lawfully apply to any Lodge in this State for the degrees in Masonry, since no Lodge has territorial jurisdiction over him. The only exception to this rule is that provided in Art. 395.
  6. A person domiciled in this State who has never received any degree in Masonry and who has not been domiciled in this State at least six months and in the jurisdiction of a Lodge for the last preceding six months, is ineligible, during any such period, to apply to any Lodge anywhere for the degrees. He is, “Masonically speaking, a Man without a country.”
  7. Rule 6 and the provisions of this article regarding the length of time one must be domiciled in this State and in the jurisdiction of some Lodge do not apply to an EA or FC seeking advancement. He must, however, be domiciled in this State, unless some Lodge in this State holds personal jurisdiction over him.
  1. Art. 395. (432). In Armed Services: Countries Without Grand Lodge. The foregoing requirements regarding domicile do not apply to residents of countries having no Grand Lodge: nor to a person having no domicile, who, at the time his petition is received is on active duty as a soldier, sailor, marine or air- man, either commissioned or non-commissioned in the Armed Forces of the United States, and furnishes evidence that he has no domicile, and documentary evidence of such service; all such evidence to be retained by the Lodge with his application.
  2. Art. 399. (436). Former Petition. If the candidate should answer that he has heretofore petitioned another Lodge, all action of the Lodge toward conferring a degree shall be suspended until it shall be shown that the candidate is legally entitled to receive the degree. The Lodge receiving the petition shall request full information from the Lodge theretofore petitioned, and the Lodge theretofore petitioned shall furnish under seal of the Lodge all information shown by the records of said Lodge to the Lodge inquiring.
  3. Art. 400. (438). Suspicion of Former Rejection. A Lodge having reason to believe or to suspect that a candidate has once been rejected, must not proceed with conferring the degrees until the matter has been thoroughly investigated. If it is discovered that a candidate has a prior rejection from any regular Lodge, and if that Lodge still possesses jurisdiction, all action upon the petition must cease. All fees that have been prepaid shall be refunded, and the facts of the matter shall be disclosed at the next stated meeting and noted in the minutes. (Revised 2012)
  4. Art. 403. (440). Petition for Degrees: Requisites. A candidate for the degrees must file with the Secretary of the Lodge a petition in writing, which must be presented to the Lodge at a stated meeting only. The petition must state the name of the petitioner in full; his age; date and place of birth; his domicile during the preceding twelve months; and shall contain all other matters required by law and Form No. 26. Said petition shall be signed by the petitioner in person and shall be recommended and the application personally signed by not less than two members of the Lodge. In the event of death, expulsion or suspension of either or both signers before the petition is received, it will be necessary to obtain other qualified signers. A certified or photostatic copy of petitioner’s birth certificate must accompany the petition, which shall be retained as a permanent record of the Lodge, or withdrawn by petitioner upon substituting a photostatic copy thereof; provided that, upon being furnished with satisfactory documentary evidence, the Grand Master may issue his certificate of approval in lieu of birth certificate, which certificate shall accompany the petition and be retained as a permanent record of the Lodge. When a petitioner’s name has been changed by law or other proper means from that shown in the birth certificate, and a full explanation thereof deemed satisfactory to the Lodge is attached to the birth certificate, the petition may be voted upon if satisfactory in all other respects.
  5. Art. 404. (441). Petition for Degrees: Answers to Questions in Art. 398. The petition for the degrees must contain the questions of Article 398 with the answers of the candidate thereto.
  6. Art. 398. (435). Questions Answered by Candidate. Before a candidate can be initiated he must answer, in writing, each of the following questions:
  1. Do you promise, upon your honor, to strictly adhere to and be governed by the Constitution and Laws of The Grand Lodge of Texas and the by-laws of this Lodge?
  2. Do you sincerely declare, upon your honor, that, unbiased by friends and uninfluenced by mercenary motives, you freely and voluntarily offer yourself as a candidate for the Mysteries of Masonry?
  3. Do you seriously declare, upon your honor, that you are prompted to solicit the privileges of Masonry by a favorable opinion conceived of the institution, a desire for knowledge, and a sincere desire to be of greater service to your fellow men?
  4. Do you seriously declare, upon your honor, that you will cheerfully conform to all the ancient established usages and customs of Masonry?
  5. Do you seriously declare, upon your honor, that you firmly believe in the existence of God, the immortality of the soul, and in the divine authenticity of the Holy Scriptures?
  6. Do you seriously declare, upon your honor, that you have never before petitioned any Lodge of Masons for the degrees or any of them?
  1. Art. 405. (442) Petition for Degrees: (Withdrawal Permitted Before Ballot.) A petition for the degrees, or any of them is “received” when it is read in open Lodge at a stated meeting upon direction of the Master presiding, usually by the Secretary. If the petition is one that may lawfully be received, it must be referred to an Investigation Committee and follow the procedure hereinafter provided, but may be withdrawn by the petitioner by written request at any time prior to the ballot thereon. Notwithstanding such withdrawal, any subsequent petition for the degrees shall state that the petitioner has previously petitioned a Lodge for the degrees or any of them. (Revised 2001)
  2. Art. 405a. Publication of Names Prohibited. The names of Petitioners, Candidates, Entered Apprentice Masons and Fellowcraft Masons shall not be published in a Lodge newsletter or any news media public or private. (Adopted 1990)
  3. Art. 406. Unlawful Presentation: Waiver of Jurisdiction. A petition unlawfully presented to a Lodge must be returned to the petitioner. If the Lodge is without territorial or personal jurisdiction over the petitioner, the petition may be withdrawn or the Lodge may apply to the proper Lodge for waiver of jurisdiction under the procedure provided in Article 456.
  4. Art. 410. Petitioner’s Death or Mental Incompetence. When a candidate dies, or becomes mentally incompetent, before the report of the investigating committee is made, his death or mental incompetence shall be reported to the Lodge and noted in the minutes, the committee discharged, and no further proceedings shall be taken thereon; and all fees paid shall be refunded to the person properly authorized to receipt therefor. (Revised 1992)
  5. Art. 411. Petitioner’s Total Disqualification. If the investigating committee finds the candidate totally disqualified for any reason, the facts should be reported to the Lodge, such report entered in the minutes, the fee returned, and no further action taken.
  6. Art. 452. (476m). Petitioners: To What Lodge They May Apply. A petitioner who is eligible to apply for the degrees or for advancement in this Grand Jurisdiction may present his petition therefore to any Lodge in this Grand Jurisdiction.
  7. Art. 508-16. Certain Other Masonic Disciplinary Violations To conceal from, or fail to reveal to, a Lodge to which he has applied for any of the degrees of Masonry, the fact that he has been previously rejected by it or any other Lodge.
  8. Art. 508-17. Certain Other Masonic Disciplinary Violations To represent in his petition for the degrees that he has never petitioned any other Lodge for the degrees, when such representations is false.

The Big Boy Tuxedo

Well, I’ve gone and purchased a tuxedo. It was a “mid-range budget” type of tuxedo on sale (or perhaps “on sale”) at Joseph A. Banks, so nothing fancy, but I’m excited nonetheless. Based off of the fitting, it needed minimal tailoring, and seemed quite nice. 

The next step is to buy a tuxedo shirt. I’m pretty sure that I want the traditional wing-tip collar, but I’m not super crazy about the pleated bib. I may opt for a more modern style of shirt. I also have to find my old suspenders, and buy both a cummerbund (or vest!) and a satin bow tie. I have some bow ties, but none that are black satin.

Now I’m almost ready to show up to fancy fraternal dinners!

Hail, Companion Knights!

Hail Companion Knights – it’s been a while. No huge updates on my part, other than the fact that today, I was initiated into the York Rite Sovereign College (Trinity No. 154), or, “dubbed a [Companion] Knight of York.” The ritual was pretty cool, although I wish that some of the audience/officers took it more seriously. The esoteric lecture was wonderful and seemed to me to be very Rosicrucian in nature, which took me by surprise. Unfortunately, that’s as much as I can divulge.

We were blessed by the presence of a little cricket who was hopping about the lodge room, causing officers to try and keep themselves from laughing while doing degree work, which was hilarious. Sadly, someone stomped on him as we were leaving. RIP Companion Knight Jiminy.
I am looking forwards to the next meeting. For degree conferrals, we all wear tuxedos, so I’ll have to get cracking!

Recently, I was informed that I have been invited to the Allied Masonic Degrees. More updates on that as we go!

Lighting Test for the Select Master Degree

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This is a lighting test that I am working on with a [“JUNOLUX” light bulb.](https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01LXJZ4TQ) The bulb is about $30, and is comprised of about 100 individual LEDs that turn on and off in order to simulate a flickering flame. The bulb looks kind of odd without a lampshade or cover, but once covered, or hidden behind an object, it looks fairly realistic.

[Link to Youtube video of lighting test.](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pJUsH-3oUZA)

There should be mystery in Masonry, and the degrees should be a wild, intense experience. One of the things that we can do to help achieve that is to set the mood with a well-thought-out ambiance. Without giving too much away, the Select Master degree is supposed to take place in a very dark, very secluded area. I talked with a member of the Grand Chapter & Council Committee on Work (the committee which writes our ritual and figures out how degrees should be performed) who explained that the degree should, ideally, be done in almost total darkness.

However, doing it in the dark can be pretty impractical. Nobody can see, there’s an increased fall risk, etc. How do we address this issue? My answer is that we should look at the idea of targeted low-lighting that is “lore friendly.” What kind of lighting would have been used in King Solomon’s time? Workers on the Temple would most likely have used torches, candles, or braziers of coal. Those are all pretty cool – but none of them are really okay in regards to my Masonic temple’s policy regarding flammable materials in the carpeted rooms. We have to look at special effects instead, in the form of LED bulbs.

These are the next few questions that I am going to try to find the answers to:

* Where is the best light placement in the room to increase lighting without using too many bulbs, running too many cords, etc?
* How much light is too much light?
* Will props used in the degree be an issue for lighting?
* If more bulbs are needed, are the cheaper versions as reliable?
* What is the most practical and lore-friendly way to house the light (lamp stand, fake firepit, prop torch, etc)?

Needless to say, I have some experimenting to do.

The Rollercoaster Ride Continues

Time for a life update. It’s been a good while since I last posted something regularly, hasn’t it?

Life has been pretty good – if somewhat challenging – since I last made a normal post (instead of a podcast outline). In terms of my career, personal life, and Masonic involvement, everything is pretty different. Let’s talk about that. One big update, all at once, to get things out of the way.

Career Stuff

I’m unemployed at the present moment. I got laid off at the end of this August and have been job hunting since then. Well, actually, I started job hunting well before then, but you get the idea. I got a nice severance package, and I have savings, so I’m okay.

The main challenge that I have been experiencing is just getting to the job interview. A lot of times, it doesn’t go any further than the application – and then the inevitable rejection comes. The second challenge lies in the fact that I majored in a few narrow field of study – petroleum engineering. Granted, my career experience is primarily computer simulation engineering, which is a pretty transferable skill, but I think a lot of non-Oil & Gas companies see “reservoir engineering” and “petroleum engineering” and figure that they’re better off with not having to train a guy from scratch. It’s a misconception that I can’t really fault them for.

I’m staying positive and I’m continuing to work hard. The simple reality is that in the 2010s, it is taking people longer to find work after a layoff than ever. The key is persistence and patience. I’ve had a few good job interviews recently – let’s see where this goes.

The most important thing about the whole experience is how much love and support that I’ve received, which has made a huge difference. This leads me to…

Personal Stuff

I’m dating a wonderful gal right now. Sarah and I started dating in February, and have been going steady ever since. She’s just as much of a nerd as I am and I’m crazy about her. She has been incredibly supportive during this period of unemployment, and I honestly think I wouldn’t be doing nearly as well (mentally) if I didn’t have her to lean on for support. I owe her a ton of thanks. The guys at Lodge keep teasing me about how we’re gonna be the lodge’s “2018 Marriage.” I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a betting pool of some kind going on. All I’ve got to say on the subject is that it’s a little too early to talk about it, but that I’m totally fine with keeping her around for a long time (and I hope she feels the same way).

My father hasn’t been in the best of health. He’s doing much, much better now, but he’s been fighting cancer. He developed a bizarre form of appendiceal cancer which herniated and grew all the way to his knee – the doctors had never seen anything like it. They hacked most of it out from his leg and abdomen, but they had to leave a bunch of it in his hip. Right now, they can’t take what’s in his hip without an at-the-hip amputation, which Dad understandably wants no part of. Fortunately (thanks be to God) the cancer isn’t growing or metastasizing. It’s just kinda…​ there. For now the game plan / best reasonably possible outcome is that Dad goes in for a scan every few months, the cancer never grows, and Dad simply just has cancer until he dies in a freak Christmas tree accident at the ripe old age of 103. I pray for him and my mom often. She’s a saint, for a host of reasons.

I’m surrounded by new friends. Hopefully they last a lifetime. I knew that I’d be meeting people through Masonry and make a few friends – but I didn’t’ expect to make so many. It goes without saying (as anyone in the Fraternity knows) that there’s too many of them to list on here. All I can say within a reasonable amount of time is: my brothers, it’s been a pleasure to get to know y’all and I love y’all. I am excited about all of my adventures to come.

I’m also surrounded by old friends. One of the things that I will never not be thankful for is the Internet. Without it, my friends from college and I wouldn’t be able to stay in touch as well as we do right now. It’s so comforting to be able to reach out to them and talk – it’s like they’re just on the other side of town and we’re texting to hang out later. I have a few pilgrimages I need to make to the Houston area – it’s been a while since most of us were physically present together. Time to fix that!

I’m also grateful for my closest canine companion, Lyra. She’s my little old lady (11 years old). She’s a black lab with a heart of gold. During the summers, she’s been an excellent companion for long, leisurely walks, and now that it’s the winter, she’s a great companion for brisk, determined walks. Right now she’s hunkered down on my bed, enjoying the warm comforter. In a bit, I’m going to go grab a cigar and we’ll go for a nice walk, after which we’ll both retire to the couch and cuddle up for warmth. I love this dog.

Masonic Stuff

Hoo boy. There’s a lot to unpack here. Let’s break it down into categories.

Symbolic Lodge

I am not an officer in my Symbolic Lodge, but I’ve been having a blast. I do a lot of our degree lectures, and I often pro-tem the Senior Deacon position for degrees and Stated Meetings. I didn’t accomplish my goal of learning the A-certificate material by the end of the year, because although I know all of the C-certificate material (trial lectures, opening/closing) and I know the lectures, I still haven’t learned how to confer. My goal is to learn to confer the degrees, and start helping our degree team even more by increasing my versatility.

Chapter & Council

Wow, where do I start here? “Hold my beer” is super applicable in this case. I started this Capitular/Cryptic year by being installed as an appointed junior officer – Master of the 2nd Veil in Chapter, and Steward in Council. Then, our 2nd-in-command (Excellent King in Chapter and Right Illustrious Deputy Master in Council) had to move to West Virginia. This left us with a gap…​ and I got promoted to fill it. By dispensation from the respective Grand bodies, we held an election and then installed several officers out-of-time. I am now serving as the Excellent King in Chapter and the Right Illustrious Deputy Master in Council, and am preparing for the year that I serve in the East. It’s been a blast, and I’m nervous, but I have a lot of great guys to rely on. One of the things that I am trying to implement is a five-year plan agreed on by the Chapter/Council as a group, so that all the guys that come after me can continue working on something they were a part of designing. The year that I serve will mostly consist of setting up the dominoes for other Companions – and I’m okay with that. Seeing the continued success of our Chapter/Council is an exciting prospect.

Commandery

Yesterday, I was installed as the Junior Warden (5th in command) of Worth Commandery #19, Knights Templar. I’m honored to have been elected and installed, and I hope to serve my fellow Sir Knights as best as I can. The Junior Warden part is really a crazy mountain to climb as brand-new SK, but the mountain is there, so I must climb it. I am very excited about bringing the Christian Orders of Knighthood to my Brothers and Companions. Commandery is a very meaningful organization to me. The ritual is so striking, and resonates so strongly with my faith, that I can’t help but love it. I am very excited to continue exploring the Christian side of Masonry.

Scottish Rite

I’m a Scottish Rite Mason now! I went through the Fall 2017 Reunion and am now a proud Master of the Royal Secret and member of the Fort Worth A&ASR-SJ Valley. It was a grueling 3-weekend process, and I’m still digesting. Fortunately, I have plenty of reading material to catch up on… and another degree to learn! I got together with some other brothers and we’re assembling a degree team for the 13th degree – the Royal Arch of Enoch. I’m excited about it!

I did, however, turn down a petition for the Knights of Saint Andrew. Right now, I want to focus on the York Rite (Symbolic lodge inclusive), and I know that if I get involved with KoSA, I’ll get carried away. I’d like to get through the East in Chapter/Council at least, first. This is one of those inevitable things, so never fear, Knights.

The Fort Worth #148 Podcast

Man, oh man, has this podcast been a blast. I’m super thankful that we’re on holiday break, though. I love the podcast, but it has definitely been taxing time-wise. This has been such an amazing opportunity for self-education and excellent conversation – I love it. I’ve been really getting the art of editing the podcast in a timely manner down as a strong skill, but I need to work on it – can’t stay up late all the time! I am looking forwards to next year. We’ll be cutting down our releases to two episodes per month. This way, we can focus on bringing higher-quality content to our listeners, while giving ourselves some breathing room. I’d rather release two great 1.5 hour episodes per month than 4-5 okay ones. It’s gonna be great, so stay tuned.