Why the RUSH?
by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
WB Scott Dueball
Why are we rushing through degrees? We have applauded the speed at which one can progress through the traditional process for far too long (and I am not talking about One Day Classes at all). We all reminisce of the days long-passed when guys were able to return their proficiency and receive the next degree weeks after receiving the previous. This has been going on since the last boom in Masonry if not longer (we know this from the obituary readings in Lodge). I believe that promptly learning the catechism demonstrates commitment to the fraternity. However, I question if that is all that is necessary to progress.
From my vantage point, I see the rush coming from both sides. The lodges are dying to get new members in and active for various reasons, while the candidates themselves are anxious to become full members. Neither is wrong but moving quickly and providing the catechism as the only means to both educate and move the candidates through the degrees dulls everything we profess as Masons.
Worthy men seek us out to give them answers to the timeless questions, to provide continued mentorship into manhood, and to develop their Inner Temple. We tell them that we can give them the keys to open doors to that which they seek. In many cases, we treat a thin book of question and answers as the knowledge. By pushing only the catechism we ignore both superficial knowledge and deeper esoteric meanings of the rituals we guide our initiates through.
In the second degree, the candidate is presented with the lesson of the 7 Liberal Arts and Sciences. These subjects were essential material to all craft lodges as a part of their second (and last) degree. Exploring these concepts we are taught to think. Without the ability to think, we cannot know nature. Without knowing nature, we cannot know God. By moving quickly from the 2nd to 3rd degree we miss a crucial opportunity to introduce these subjects and teach their Masonic uses. Once through the Master Mason degree we become inundated with officer chairs, appendant bodies, and the sophmoric belief that we know everything that a Mason can know.
We have all been there, myself included. We get so caught up in all of the amazing things that being a Master Mason offers, that we forget to go back and learn those things which we knew we should have learned but we were in too much of a rush to take the time. It took me nearly a decade to realize how much I had missed. It was only when guiding new Masons through their degrees that I started to know the Masonic usage of the Trivium and Quadrivium. I missed what is truly emblomized by the rough ashlar, the precision with which the working tools have been selected, and the universality of the point within a circle. These concepts are not fully covered in the catechism which means that we completely ignore presenting their light when we proceed through the degrees without focused education.
When we bring men in with the promise of answers and then breeze through the true teachings the men lose interest. It takes some work on the initiate's part, but that does not relieve us from all responsibility to guide them to the river of knowledge. We lose men because it is apparent that we often do not hold up our end of the bargain. Further, the men we keep are those unaffected by our lack of mentoring follow-through. In other words, if we want educated Masons then we have to do the work to educate them.