Quick Masonry - Follow Up

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
R.W.B. Michael H. Shirley

It's not their problem, it's yours. And it's called resentment.

When Todd Creason and I wrote an article about Quick Masonry, we expected that it would attract some interest, but the amount of discussion it generated on Facebook and elsewhere took us by surprise. The comments mostly fell along the lines we had talked about: Blue Lightnings/One-Day Classes versus traditional degrees (there wasn’t much talk about the short-form catechism). Most of the commenters preferred—strongly—traditional degrees. As it happens, so do Todd and I. However, some of the commenters went so far as to disparage the Brethren who, for whatever reason, took the Quick Masonry route, going so far as to calling them “McMasons.” (McMason defined - here) I realized, on reading those comments, that we had not addressed that point in our original piece, so I decided, with Todd’s encouragement, to write a follow up.

The criticisms of Masons who were products of one-day classes or Blue Lightnings were generally focused either on their experience (“they’re not getting what they should”) or their person (“they’re not real Masons”). The former is reasonable, and is really not a criticism of the Brothers who went the non-traditional route, but of the Craft itself for allowing a “weakening” of the experience of becoming a Master Mason. The latter, however, is not reasonable. It is a criticism of men who, in good faith (as we must presume), became Masons according to the rules promulgated by their Grand Lodges. To say that they are not real Masons is not only to dishonor them: it is to dishonor Masonry itself. It says nothing bad about the criticized, and nothing good about the critic.

Worshipful Brother Robert Johnson, editor of the Midnight Freemasons, tells me he hears “McMason” a lot, and shared with me an excerpt from a fairly typical email he received: "I don't understand how we can just give away Masonry for a check. I had to work for 4 months to become a Master Mason. What have they done? Nothing. It like working and getting paid, and then your boss hands over another paycheck to a guy who shows up and has never worked before." (Matthew 20: 1-16 might be instructive here.) Brethren who talk this way are not just denouncing their new Brother; they are not just vilifying their Grand Lodge for its willingness to bring Masonry to men who might otherwise be unable to receive their degrees; they are setting themselves up as arbiters of what a Mason is, as if they themselves are on some Masonic pedestal to which these “inadequate” Brethren must aspire. I have no doubt that it is well meaning, and comes from a love of Freemasonry, but it does no one any good.

What happened to meeting on the level? The Mason who is raised in a Blue Lightning isn’t buying Masonry, and the traditionally-raised Mason loses nothing by that Blue Lightning.  The moment they’re raised, they have before them the world of the Craft, and it’s up to each of them to embrace it.  
 Brethren, please stop criticizing your Blue Lightning Brethren, and, if you’re able, teach that Brother who you think didn’t get what he should have. Become his mentor. Be an example of what our gentle Craft can be. Be his Brother.  But don’t think you earned Masonry and he didn’t.  Masonry is a gift, and we need to treat it as such.


R.W.B. Michael H. Shirley serves the Grand Lodge of Illinois, A.F. & A.M, as Leadership Development Chairman and Assistant Area Deputy Grand Master of the Eastern Area. A Certified Lodge Instructor, he is a Past Master and Life Member of Tuscola Lodge No. 332 and a plural member of Island City Lodge No. 330, F & AM, in Minocqua, Wisconsin. He currently serves the Valley of Danville, AASR, as Most Wise Master of the George E. Burow Chapter of Rose Croix; he is also a member of the Illinois Lodge of Research, the York Rite, Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees, Eastern Star, Illini High Twelve, and the Tall Cedars of Lebanon. The author of several articles on British history, he teaches at Eastern Illinois University.You can contact him at: m.h.shirley@gmail.com


  1. I'm writing this without doing research on the subject so most of what I'm going to say is anecdotal. Maybe some day I'll get the research done and realize whether I'm right or just blowing hot air. From what I can tell, Freemasonry had a large influx of members both during and after World Wars I and II. Because of the attitude of loyalty and dedication, they maintained their membership even if they weren't that active. Before this influx, its my opinion that membership rolls were quite a bit smaller.

    With the increase in membership, we built the large buildings that many are now having trouble maintaining that our membership is declining. If you follow the stories of the sale of these buildings, most seem to have been built in the 1920's & 30's. When our membership was growing. Now many are worried that our membership is declining and are trying to find ways to maintain or increase our numbers again. The one night or one weekend degree seems to be the favored way along with making it easier and quicker to "prove up". When I took my degrees in the mid 70's, I still had to learn the questions and answers. Through this, I got to know the members who posted me and it helped give me a heads up when I started learning to confer the degrees.

    I guess what I'm trying to say is that before the membership influx, we were more selective about who we took in and we worked with them more and got to know them more. Maybe we need to look at what our membership numbers were pre-1910 and those might be more realistic as to how large our lodges should be. And in doing so, we will be able to devote the time needed get and keep new members.

  2. I would love for you to elaborate on your choice of words... ("easier and quicker to "prove up")... I will reserve further comment until you do so...

  3. From the viewpoint of a German Freemason, the Concept of „Blue Lightning Brethren” is a very peculiar one, indeed. Over here the journey of the newly Initiated Brother EA unto the day he reaches the sublime Degree of a MM takes about two years. (Although has cannot vote, we see him from the very first day as a true Brother, because he has seen the light) I see this this time, as a time of maturation. The EA has the task to take a look inside. He is charged to get better acquainted to his inner self. Self-recognition is crucial for self-improvement. The FC has the task to take a look around. The charge is to find his place in the temple, not build by hands. He is also charged to travel and to visit other lodges, hereby broadening his view of Freemasonry. When he finally reaches the Sublime Degree of a MM he should be ready to call himself a Freemason. Now he has the Charge to look above. Why is he here, what is his relation to the G.A.O.T.U. ? He will now be in the position to take responsibility for the Craft.
    I am aware, that I might have painted an idealistic picture. Of course, there is not just black and white, but I am convinced that the masonic path toward light takes it’s time and there is no shortcut.
    But, be that as it may. To look scornful at the new Brother eho went through a Blue Lightning Class is not very masonic at all.
    If we take ourselves serious, and we believe in our own claim to “take good men, and make them better”, we have to acknowledge, that a good man has found the Way to our temple and made three distinct knocks.
    If he has a lack of knowledge we are charged to teach him. Having knowledge is always good, but it is not crucial. We have to teach him the true meaning of wisdom, strength and beauty in the craft. When we succeed, we will strengthen that little flame inside him that brought him to the gates of the temple. But how can we do that?

    Only, if we climb down from our “earned” positions, from our ranks and from our complacency, down to the level, the place on which all masons shall meet.
    Only from this position we can teach masonry, not with the arrogance o a scholar, but with the loving heart of true brother. We teach our new Brother, by the way we act, by the way we behave ourselves, by the way we life.


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  5. I am an EA and I came here to get the general consensus of the "Blue Lightening" method. While I admit, I was tempted to go this route out of the weakness of impatience to be able to feel like a real brother, I am choosing to go the regular route. I feel like, as an EA, we are not seen as a true member yet. Yes, we have a lot of growing to do but, we need to make a more solid effort on making EAs feel more "accepted". I just want ONE small piece of flare, brothers! Someone hand me an EA pin to wear on my lapel!! :)

    Seriously though, after reading the comments and the article, I would be horrified if someone called me a McMason! In no way do I want to start out my journey with that sort of stigma attached to me. I will await my time with patience...

  6. I guess I am a McMason. I was made an EA in my home lodge. I then attended a one day chance to advance class where I was passed to the degree of a FC and Raised to the Sublime degree of a MM. On the day I was passed and raised I watched as numerous brothers went through the Work. All told I believe I experienced the degree work and then watched it 3 more times. Everyone participated in the degrees then watched the lectures together. That was 12 years ago. I have since joined the lodge line and I am a Past Master. My lodge experienced membership growth and regularly had 27 members in attendance. We only have 250 members so we feel pretty good about this number. Our lodge only seat 36 and many times our lodge is full. Memorization is not strict however our degree work is flawless. We continue to do the chance to advance 2nd & 3rd degrees as allowed by our Grand Lodge. This changes annually with the Grand Master. We have had number Grand Lodge members check us out on occasion looking for something we are doing wrong. This has not been accomplished by anyone to date. I can promise you this there are a lot of MM out there who have never seen degree work performed outside the degree work they experienced. The way my lodge does degree work allows the candidate then brother to experience the event then watch the event unfold on another. This is more valuable than most will ever understand. This degree work combination is why I believe my Lodge is successful in building a bond with our new brothers. Jarred White PM Mayetta 393


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