The Case for the Missing Comma

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB. Adam Thayer

Those who know me within Masonry know that I’m a bit of a ritual nerd. I think our ceremonies are some of the most beautiful I’ve ever experienced, and each time I watch them, it feels brand new to me. One of my favorite things to do Masonically is to take a piece of ritual work apart, and examine it from different angles, to try to understand the deeper meanings hidden within.

“What come you here to do?” It’s a question we are asked to consider in our Entered Apprentice degree, and while the answer is provided for us, it is up to each of us to determine what that means in our own lives.

There are two nearly identical answers to the question, depending on your jurisdiction, and the only grammatical difference is the placement of a comma. The difference in your stated purpose, however, is radical.

Some jurisdictions (my own included) do not have a comma in the answer, and as such it reads “To learn to subdue my passions and improve myself in Masonry.” When read this way, you are here for two purposes: to be taught how to control your passions, and to become a better Mason.

It’s possible that, in those jurisdictions without the comma, Albert Pike stole the comma for use in his writings.

Some other jurisdictions have the comma inserted, so that your purpose is “To learn, to subdue my passions and improve myself in Masonry.” Now your purpose is threefold: first and foremost, to learn, second to control your passions, and third to become a better Mason.

It’s a subtle difference, but an important one. Under this text, you aren’t just learning how to subdue your passions, you’re learning about a myriad of subjects. In addition, the focus is much more on action; you are actively seeking to subdue your passions, not just learning how to do so.

While I would never say that the ritual in my jurisdiction is incorrect, I will happily admit that I like it with the extra comma better. It puts more emphasis on working hard to be better men, and doesn’t limit the scope of your learning to a narrow field.

At the risk of committing a grave Masonic offense, I would put forward that there is an even better way to word it, and one that I hope you will keep in mind:

“What come you here to do? To learn, to subdue my passions, and improve myself THROUGH

We often say that our fraternity exists to make good men better. We don’t say to make better Masons, because Masonry is a collection of tools we should be using to turn ourselves into better men both inside and outside of the fraternity. If our goal is only to make better Masons, we should solely be focused on things such as improving ritual work, and learning to love the reading of the minutes.

Masonry is a lifelong pursuit of knowledge and perfection, and in the final tally, any improvement we make is worth the effort put in. With that in mind, what come YOU here to do?


Bro. Adam Thayer is the Junior Warden of Lancaster Lodge No 54 in Lincoln (NE) and the Worshipful Master of Oliver Lodge No. 38 in Seward (NE). He’s an active member of the Scottish Rite, and Knight Master of the Lincoln Valley Knights of Saint Andrew. Adam serves on the Education Committee of the Grand Lodge of Nebraska. You can contact him at


  1. I'll admit it, I went and checked my ritual and alas, no comma.

    I think that many of us are missing the comma due to the simple fact that our rituals have been converted to a cipher text and the punctuation is left out. A sad testament to keep something secret rather than keep the intended meaning.

    I'll add this to my list of topics to bring forward for discussion at my Lodge - thank you for point out something that may be trivial for some, is a glaring oversight to others.

  2. Masonry'r admonition; To Circumscribe One's Passions has always come up for me as most important... perhaps that is because i so often fail at following this most important wisdom.

    Recently i have come to discover what i thought was a new Truth, only to recognize Masonry beat me to long ago.

    Emotion Forces Materialization Of The Physical

    "The mass collective realm is accessed very briefly during the sleep time.
    There the subconscious mind is at work during sleep.
    Media programs the subconscious mind with Fear.
    The media shows things that are designed to produce Anger.
    Fear and Anger can be controlled. They can be directed.
    Fear and Anger always produce amplification.
    That amplification always goes into the mass collective realm during sleep.
    The mass collective realm drives manifest materialization to happen
    That manifest materialization happens at the physical level.
    The volume of amplification supports the mass collective realm
    The more Fear and Anger there is, the more manifest materialization happens.

    Sadness happens along with understanding.
    Understanding can not be controlled.
    Stop being Fearful.
    Stop being Angry.
    Allow understanding.
    Allow sadness.

    We can '… we prevent extremism from spreading …'”

  3. The comma doesn't belong there. An EA needs to learn to subdue his passions before any other lessons - including those which enable him to improve himself in Masonry can take hold. To build a Temple, the ground must be cleared and prepared before the foundation can be laid; a farmer must till and prepare the soil before seeds can be sowed in order to ensure that they will take root and thrive; a man must learn to subdue his passions before he can do further work in the quarry.

    1. I believe this is the most correct answer (no comma) since the question is posed to an Entered Apprentice, one who is just embarking upon the Masonic journey. The Entered Apprentice has no prior knowledge of the workings of the lodge nor an understanding of its ritual and has only obligated himself to keep the secrets of Freemasonry secret. Each obligation is simply an incremental building of trust between the candidate and the members. Anyway, it is in the Fellowcraft degree that the expectations of the candidate regarding learning are focused on the seven liberal arts and sciences. And, yes, learning can be broader than those but it is in the seven liberal arts and sciences that we establish a reliable foundation for communicating. One does not learn about Freemasonry by taking his first, second, or third degree. In the degrees, each of us were "firehosed" with ritual and there is little that one learns in that short period of time. It is only through the study of the ritual, attending degree work, and discussing the philosophy of Masonry, that we learn the true meanings of Freemasonry's ancient, hieroglyphical, moral instruction and its symbols.

      Michael K. Moseley
      PM, 1988
      Marion Lodge #6
      Marion, Iowa


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