Lodge of Instruction - The Doorway to Freemasonry

This article was written by W. Bro Ron Pargeter and given by him to new Initiates in our Lodge and our Daughter Lodge, Simon De Montfort (9024). I have reproduced the text as it was given. 

 

Lodge of Instruction - The Doorway to Masonry

Your entry into freemasonry was, figuratively, poor and penniless and, if the Charity Steward has his way, you may leave in a similar state, but there is great wealth in the benefits you can obtain. Joining freemasonry may have reminded some of you of attending a new school or company. You were among many that were strangers, who may well have become your friends. You were introduced to new routines and a new curriculum that required diligent attention if you were to understand and gain from it.

 

The framework and structure of freemasonry is largely traditional and despite changing times and subsequent marginal modifications the basic concepts remain having withstood the erosion of the years. Its main strength is the bond of friendship that unites all freemasons and it is essential that it remains so. It is this combination of traditionalism, comradeship and relaxation that we grow to appreciate and accept.

 

I believe there is no easier way of introducing new members to ritual, that can appear, at first, to be difficult to understand and almost impossible to remember, than by recommending the welcome they will receive when attending the meetings of the Lodge of Instruction held specifically for their benefit. Their presence ensures there will never be any fear of remaining a stranger. It also helps to strengthen the bond between members comprising the officers of the year and, as an added bonus, it tends to bridge any gap that might exist between new and young members and Past Masters of, and in, the lodge as, contrary to implication, these meetings are also attended, and supported, by more senior members who invariably out-number the lay brethren present. In passing, I would mention that when appointments and promotions are assessed by The Provincial Grand Lodge attendance at these meetings is also considered worthy of note as being contributory to effort and example.

 

I am, probably like most of you, interested in hearing details recounted of the early days of Masonry. These matters are not the concern of the Lodge of Instruction except when they have a bearing on the present day interpretation of Masonic ritual but it should be borne in mind, that, because of the secrecy that once surrounded masonry, very little was actually recorded and it is not therefore possible to guarantee the validity of all our reported history. It is however accepted that the practices and rituals that existed were many and varied and in 1816 a Grand Lodge committee resolved the general format of the ceremonies and rituals that would replace what was formerly mainly lectures. I will give a few brief details for the benefit of some of the newer members with an apology to those of you already familiar with them.

 

In 1823 The Emulation Lodge of Improvement (this being an alternative name for Lodge of Instruction) was formed for the express purpose of correlating and defining an acceptable form of ritual and these workings still provide the basis of all approved rituals today. In more recent times there have been various directives, emanating from Grand Lodge, which have resulted in changes to the workings of most rituals. For example: around 1982 consideration was being given to the possibility of removing or modifying certain terminology contained in the obligations taken by candidates referring to physical penalties. This was enacted in June 1986 when certain clauses became references elsewhere in the ceremonies. The Lodge of Instruction was able to smooth the transitional path of these introductions for both junior and senior members.

 

Grand Lodge was, at first, averse to the printing of the ritual and for a lengthy period only oral repetition made possible the practice and usage of the approved form. Consequently, variations were common, some of which still exist. It is also accepted that particular versions have been adopted by Sussex Ritual but it is still possible to detect differences of interpretation should you visit even neighbouring lodges. The passage of time tends to make these changes established practice and it is wise to refrain from comment should this be your experience, ever bearing in mind, that if you are ever questioned concerning details of your lodge workings, avoid contention and respond that it is the custom of the lodge.

 

The opinion is often expressed that these days progress to the Master’s Chair is much faster than previously, and generally this is true, but, there is always the example of an initiation in 1787 which led to the chair of Grand Master three years later. The initiate being HRH the Prince of Wales, who later became King George IV.  It should be remembered that the number of operative lodges is still increasing and candidates are thus spread more widely. This has the effect of reducing the period of progression to the Master’s Chair, which in turn alters the ratio of lay brethren to Past Masters sometimes resulting in the impossibility of filling an office in the Lodge of Instruction, or in the lodge, with an ambitious young mason.

 

The activities of Lodge’s of Instruction (or Improvement), like this and every other lodge, are governed by the rules and regulations but they can be applied in a more relaxed manner while still remaining faithful to the principles of the Craft. In general, a policy of encouragement is employed and any justifiable criticism should be of a constructive nature and, hopefully, received with the same goodwill that prompted it.

 

It is not until you become familiar with the ritual that you will understand fully the plain common sense contained in the various charges, exhortations and explanations and only then will you appreciate the added dimension that Freemasonry can give your existence. The objective of the Lodge of Instruction is especially realized when a lay member acquires confidence through knowledge of the words and actions required by his present or future office.

 

From the foregoing it must be apparent that I believe that the Lodge of Instruction provides the ‘Doorway to Masonry” and that if you enter by any other route you are unlikely to achieve your aims and ambition within.

 

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